From hospital to home

Monday, 8 September 2014 - 12:53am

With 36% of homeless patients leaving hospital with nowhere to go, this short guide explains steps NHS staff can to take to stop this from happening.

When someone who is homeless is admitted to hospital, research shows that their stay can often last longer, be more complex and cost the NHS more than other patients.

When they leave hospital, if they don't get the right support, many risk being discharged straight back onto the streets, further damaging their health and all but guaranteeing their readmission.

Housing is key to a ‘safe discharge’ from hospital, as well as to reducing the ongoing burden on the NHS. If you work for the NHS, there are steps you can take to help.

On admission, identify homeless patients and those living in homelessness services

  • Ask if people have accommodation, whether they can return and if they risk losing it. 
  • Contact the patient’s support services – this can prevent them losing their accommodation. 

If a housing need is identified, know how to respond and who to refer them to

  • Find out who to notify within the hospital and externally – is there a named contact?
  • Know how to make a referral to the local Housing Options team.
  • Ask for training on the assessment and referral of homeless people.
  • Keep an up-to-date contact list of local agencies such as hostels, outreach and drug and alcohol services on each ward. You can use www.homelessuk.org to find these out.

If homeless people discharge themselves

  • Alert local services. 
  • Record the self-discharge and the reason. 

Ensure patients can access ongoing care

  • Complete a social needs assessment. 
  • Notify the GP and relevant agencies about follow up treatment.
  • Provide a copy of the discharge plan and medication.

Help people return to their accommodation  

  • Let the housing agency know when the patient is returning to ensure they can get in.
  • Avoid out of hours discharge.
  • Help the patient get home – they may need travel expenses.

Talk To Us

Helen Mathie

Helen Mathie

Head of policy and communications

Helen currently job shares her role with Caroline Bernard, jointly overseeing Homeless Link’s policy, research, information and communications team.