Homeless people are being denied access to basic healthcare, according to research which suggests “perceived stigma and discrimination” in health settings are pushing people with no fixed abode into “repeat cycles of homelessness” and causing “unnecessary deaths”.
A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham found homeless people were being denied registration at GP surgeries and discharged from hospital onto the streets with no referral to primary care providers.
Mental health and substance misuse services were also deemed to be excluding those with the greatest need, with entry thresholds to these services said to “actively obstruct” patients who were self-harming, including those with recent suicide attempts.
The study, based on 22 interviews with homeless adults across four sites shelters, found that participants reported inequality in access in mainstream health services, with most facing negative experiences.
Most identified the absence of a “fixed abode” as the largest barrier to registering at a mainstream general practice where both proof of address and photo identification were often requested by the frontline staff.
People with mental health conditions and substance misuse said they had been told they were not able to receive support until they addressed their substance misuse issue, placing them in a “vicious cycle”.