Taking health services to homeless people

Our new Place, Home and Housing portfolio supports improvements to strategic planning and housing services to provide people with a home environment that supports greater independence and improved health and well-being. The engagement to date from the housing sector has been fantastic, though it is early days for us in terms of impact stories.

“Pharmacists for Homeless” is an innovative project which was funded by the ihub Improvement Fund. Based in Glasgow, the project has helped over 80 people sleeping rough in Glasgow to receive a health check since August 2017.

Pharmacists for Homeless is run in partnership with Pharmacists from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and outreach workers from Simon Community Street Team to deliver vital support to Glasgow’s homeless community. The aim is to make healthcare more accessible for people who are known to be homeless or who are rough sleeping.

The multi-disciplinary outreach team undertakes a mini-health check with clients, examining their heart, breathing, nutrition, mental health, access and engagement to addiction support services, medicines and blood borne viruses. The team is cognizant of the predominant health problems known to affect this vulnerable group, given that they don’t tend to access preventative healthcare services.

Consultations take place in a range of unconventional venues, where trust can be established. Lack of permanent accommodation or fixed address is recognised as a barrier to receiving care.

“Addressing health inequalities is often cited as the NHS’s first priority”, said Richard Lowrie, Pharmacists for Homeless project spokesperson. “When you next see a person who is homeless, consider this: their average age is 43 years, but in terms of health status (their number of chronic conditions), it is equivalent to looking at a vulnerable 84 year old with no money or roof over their head.

“The project has successfully engaged with rough sleepers experiencing physical and mental health problems in addition to opiate addiction, who had disengaged from treatment. These patients have expressed their gratitude for having their treatments re-started, and have been accommodated as part of their wider care plan.”

This multi-disciplinary approach and move away from traditional delivery methods is critical to addressing health inequalities for this vulnerable population. Ruth Robin, ihub Portfolio Lead for Place, Home and Housing said, “This project allows us to evidence the ways we can provide essential healthcare to a vulnerable community. We recognise the importance of flexible provision in improving engagement and ensuring access for everyone.”

Following this initial success, the project is now looking to share its experience with other partners and explore ways to spread this outreach service to some of the most vulnerable people sleeping rough.