Calls made for more healthcare support for Norfolk’s homeless people

Alex Stewart, chief executive of Healthwatch Norfolk.

Alex Stewart, chief executive of Healthwatch Norfolk. - Credit: Archant

Calls have been made to improve access to health and social care for Norfolk's homeless people following the publication of a new report.

Low-cost solutions could help improve support for those that are sleeping on the streets or in supported accommodation, according the county's health watchdog.

A report commissioned by Healthwatch Norfolk has revealed that homeless people receive treatment and access services much later than would be the case for the rest of the population, resulting in poorer outcomes

The study, carried out by the Access Community Trust, highlighted the barriers and social stigma that can prevent homeless people accessing services that the rest of us take for granted, said officials from Healthwatch.

The report called on Norfolk GP practices to identify a clinician who could lead on the homelessness agenda and for surgeries to register with drop-in service addresses. It also calls for formal links between homelessness services and hospitals to be examined and for NHS organisations to join up with homelessness organisations from the voluntary sector to deliver shared training and education to improve awareness.

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Officials from Healthwatch Norfolk - the consumer champion for health and social care - pledged to run a summit in the spring to get together key individuals and organisations and to find ways to promote better and more rapid access to services by homeless people.

Alex Stewart, Healthwatch Norfolk chief executive, said: 'We welcome the report from our colleagues at Access Community Trust. While it clearly raises concerns about how services meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities it also makes some relatively simple and low-cost suggestions that could improve the situation. Healthwatch Norfolk is committed to working with the health and social care system to find ways of turning these recommendations into action.'

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'Traditionally, at this time of year, we take the time to think of those less fortunate than ourselves. This report is a timely reminder of the problems that homeless people face, day-in, day-out, when looking to access and use services they desperately need.'

Almost 90 people were interviewed as part of the study into homeless people's access to health and social care services in Norfolk with more than half saying that they had used local Accident and Emergency departments in the last six months.

The report also revealed a prevalence of mental health problems and drug and alcohol issues for Norfolk's homeless people with 45pc of those surveyed saying they 'self-medicated.' Sixty percent of women consulted also said they had not had a cervical smear test in the last three years.

To review the report in full, visit

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