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Accessibility major barrier to homeless

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Accessibility to healthcare services has been identified as a barrier to effective care for homeless patients by the QNI's Homeless Health Network (HHN).

The HHN conducted a survey of 184 community and practice nurses who work with homeless patients. The survey showed that factors such as difficult-to-reach practices, long waiting times and telephone or online-only booking systems made health services potentially inaccessible to homeless patients. Twenty-nine per cent of respondents stated that a lack of flexible or out-of-hours care and specialist services were a 'top problem.'

The survey also highlighted how patients' own attitudes can stop them accessing services. Respondents stated that these patients often had mental health issues or substance addictions which meant they were less likely to access healthcare.

Poor communication between primary and secondary care staff and a lack of accommodation available meant that patients were likely to return to the streets after discharge.

Recommendations from the survey suggest that nurses can ensure greater accessibility by offering open access to book appointments (no telephone/online-only bookings), delivering care directly to the homeless in easily reached settings and by improving integration between primary and secondary healthcare.

The QNI has published resources to help nurses treat homeless patients. They can be found at: www.qni.org.uk

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