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Advice - How can homeless people being admitted to or discharged from hospital be helped?

If you are homeless

If you are homeless and are admitted into hospital, you should tell hospital staff about any outreach or hostel staff or other key workers who have been involved in your support so that the hospital can continue to involve them in your care and support planning.

If you have a room in a hostel, you should always tell hostel staff straight away that you have been admitted to hospital - or ask the hospital ward staff to do this for you. You should find out if your place will be kept for you and if so for how long, and find out whether you will continue to get Housing Benefit if you are claiming this.

Developing better systems around hospital discharge and homelessness

Health service staff can play a key role in helping homeless people who are admitted into hospital and those leaving hospital without anywhere to stay. Hospital discharge staff, local authorities and homelessness and support services can work together to dramatically improve the chances of homeless people finding accommodation and support. This can also help reduce the likelihood of further health problems and hospital admissions in the future.

The Hospital Admissions and Discharge Protocol (developed by Homeless Link in partnership with the Department of Health and Communities and Local Government) gives guidance to help hospitals, Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), local authorities and the voluntary sector to work in partnership. The Protocol also has supporting factsheets which give practical guidance on specific issues.

In summary, the key elements are:

  • Developing a local hospital discharge protocol with procedures on how to help homeless people
  • Ensuring hospital staff assess and act on homeless housing status on admission and not wait until a patient is about to be discharged
  • Familiarisation with the roles of different homelessness services
  • Finding out about other local support services (eg for people with mental health or substance misuse problems, young people, older people etc)
  • Developing links with named contacts in key relevant agencies
  • Using Homeless UK to locate local authority and other key homelessness and support services when helping people from outside the local area.

Further information

Homeless Pages has a wealth of information about reports, research and good practice on health and homeless people. Simply search using the Keyword “Health” to find details of over 100 publications or do a free text search using the term “hospital discharge”.

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