We all depend on public services to help us. They should work for everyone in our society. Yet, people experiencing homelessness face multiple barriers when accessing healthcare. This can result in numerous and chronic health issues, even when some are easily treatable. Severe conditions can go undiagnosed and untreated for a long time, even resulting in avoidable deaths. 

What are the barriers to healthcare? 

  • Digital exclusion: A lack of ID, telephone and access to the internet makes making an appointment nearly impossible. 
  • Stigma and fear of judgment: Fear of being judged by the public and medical professionals can reduce trust in and engagement with healthcare.
  • Previous bad experiences: Bad experiences when engaging with healthcare as well as long wait times, both in A&E and routine appointments, can compound existing anxiety around getting healthcare support
  • Multiple Disadvantage: People experiencing homelessness may have other disadvantages, such as alcohol or drug use, meaning healthcare professionals refuse to work with them. 
  • Lack of support networks and advocacy: Often, support networks and family aren't there to help people experiencing homelessness and advocate for their health needs. 
  • Everyday survival: Sleeping rough is dangerous and scary. Healthcare may not seem a priority when you have more immediate concerns, like keeping warm and safe and searching for food and shelter. 

In 2022-23, someone without a fixed abode visited hospital every seven minutes.

(Salvation Army Report, 2023)


Why does this matter? 

  • Diagnoses of physical and mental health conditions are much higher than the general population, with many of those experiencing homelessness facing early onset frailty.  
  • A 2019 UCL Study found that treatable conditions, such as tuberculosis and gastric ulcers, cause at least one-third of deaths among homeless people. These can improve with the proper care.
  • Shockingly, the average age of death for someone sleeping rough is just 45 for men and 43 for women, compared to a national average of 79 for men and 83 for women. 
  • Healthcare barriers create overreliance on A&E and other emergency healthcare, creating significant health inequalities and, costing the NHS time and money, and creating considerable health inequalities and leading to preventable deaths.

How we're improving access to healthcare: 

Our Health approach consists of a team of specialist Health Leads who work with our residents across three main areas:

  • Improving diagnosis, engagement, treatment, and palliative care for our clients experiencing multiple disadvantage. 
  • Forming partnerships with NHS services and health organisations to arrange regular in-reach and fair access to healthcare.  
  • Influencing and advocacy in partnership with charities and organisations.  

We also engage our clients in improving their health and wellbeing through other initiatives, like our Sport Project