Health Service Focus

14.10.19

NHS to provide mental health outreach for rough sleepers

Towns and areas with ‘homeless hotspots’ are set to receive NHS investment in specialist mental health care.

The NHS will provide more care for rough sleepers across the country by giving specific support to their mental health.

New psychiatrists, psychologists and other experts are to be introduced in seven parts of the country that need the help the most.

They will be there to offer people advice and treatment for any underlying mental health issues, in a bid to improve their quality of life.

The first wave of funding is worth almost £12m over the next five years and will see the launching of services in Birmingham, Brighton, Hull, Lambeth, Luton, Lincoln and Haringey.

Over half of all rough sleepers are battling with mental health problems, and on average, die around 30 years earlier than the general population.

Vulnerable tough sleepers often go through what the NHS call a ‘revolving door’ where they receive treatment or support but still end up back to square one and on the streets again.

Local organisations, including councils, will be involved in the process of uniting homeless people with doctors and nurses as they provide support and care.

These new measures are part of a considered effort to make the NHS more accessible to rough sleepers, particularly regarding their mental health. Support will include efforts to join up care with outreach, accommodation, drug and alcohol treatment and physical healthcare services.  

NHS staff and local authorities will form outreach teams, whose first job will be identifying those in need of help and provide access to a GP, shortly followed by the newly available expert psychiatrics.

Claire Murdoch, NHS national director for mental health said:

“While the NHS cannot solve homelessness on its own, it is working hard to make sure rough sleepers have easy access to services that are built and designed around their needs – putting an end to the revolving door of trauma care.

“Many rough sleepers have been through incredibly traumatic experiences which can cause mental ill health or exacerbate problems – often impacting on the type of support they need and this is about stopping people slipping through the net.”

One to one support will also be made available by individual caseworkers who will maintain contact with a patient for as long as they need.

The seven areas are due to expand to at least 20 by 2023/24 through a £30m fund as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

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