Community nurses must understand the specialist needs of homeless people and provide them with appropriate care, David Parker-Radford, head of the QNI’s homeless health project, has said.
Mr Parker-Radford made the comments during a session on the topic at the QNI’s Annual Conference on 28 September at the Royal College of General Practitioners. He cited figures that showed that homeless people are 50 times more likely to develop hepatitis C, 34 times more likely to contract tuberculosis, and 20 times more likely to die from a drug overdose.
He said: ‘Providing healthcare to homeless people is everyone’s business. Homeless people have complex needs, and it is key for community nurses to understand them.’
He also revealed the disparity in life expectancy between the average patient and a homeless one. The life expectancy for an average male is 79, compared with 47 for a man who is classified as homeless. In women, the variation is greater, with a normal life expectancy of 82 compared with 43 for a homeless woman.
The QNI’s reasearch has revealed that homeless people often have a difficult relationship with healthcare providers. The session cited examples from interviews with homeless people who had accessed healthcare. Many of the interviewees said that they had felt as though they were not treated as well as they should have been, while others had difficulty accessing services.
Mr Parker-Radford said: ‘If there is one quote to encapsulate what we have seen, it is “there is a lot of distrust between [healthcare professionals] and the homeless.”
The QNI have launched a number of initiatives to support community nurses to provide homeless people with the best possible care. A health risk assessment tool, which will allow community nurses to perform a ‘health MOT’ for homeless people will be launched by the QNI on 9 October. Other resources include guidance to support the oral health of homeless people, and information on performing foot checks for homeless people.