A University of Birmingham study out today has found evidence of severe mental health problems, substance dependence and alcohol misuse amongst homeless population.

The study, funded by Public Health England and West Midlands Combined Authority and published in the British Journal of General Practice, also showed nearly one in three of the homeless population attended an Accident and Emergency Department in the preceding 12 months. This equates to nearly 60 times the rate of A&E attendance observed in the general population.

Dominic Williamson, St Mungo’s Director of Policy and Strategy said:

“The findings from this study are very concerning, but sadly not surprising.

“People who are homeless experience some of the worst health outcomes in England, and die 40 years earlier than the general population.

“Despite this, our recent research revealed a £1billon a year drop in funding for specialist homelessness services over the last ten years.

“In a survey of rough sleeper outreach services across England, carried out last year by St Mungo’s, 70% said mental health services for people sleeping rough had got harder to access compared with five years ago, and 42% said the same for substance use services.

“NHS Long Term Plan commitments are a good start. This must mean investing in specialist services for homeless people with the most complex needs including vital support to improve their health, including mental health and substance use problems, alongside finding a home for good.”

Researchers analysed routinely collected datasets from almost 1,000 patients registered to Birmingham Homeless Healthcare Centre in Birmingham city centre.

The study found that nearly one in eight had been offered support for substance dependence and one in five had been offered support for alcohol misuse. A high prevalence of infectious hepatitis C was also identified.

Improving health is an important part of St Mungo’s approach to tackling homelessness. We provide health information, train staff and promote a wide range of health initiatives for our staff and clients. We work to increase our clients’ awareness of health issues and the services they can use and make sure they are receiving appropriate treatment.