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A third of homeless people in the West Midlands attended A&E last year

Nearly one in three homeless people in the West Midlands attended an A&E department in the last 12 months, which is 60 times higher than a non-homeless person, according to a study.

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

The study also 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.

The study, funded by Public Health England and West Midlands Combined Authority was published yesterday (July 2) in the British Journal of General Practice.

The authors of the study are urging GP practices to make registration of homeless people easier and to provide signposting to specialist homelessness services, where they are available.

Shelter estimates that there are over 320,000 homeless people in the UK, and the number continues to rise.

Lead investigator Dr Vibhu Paudyal, of the University of Birmingham’s School of Pharmacy, said: ‘The study provides compelling evidence about the health problems faced by homeless people.

‘Participants, whose average age was 38 years old, had two or more serious chronic medical conditions, a rate comparable to people in their 60s.

‘Substance abuse and alcohol dependency were common, as were mental health problems and hepatitis C. This study reinforces the need to further expand and diversify specialist services available to the homeless population, particularly preventative services.

‘Our previous research has shown that patients highly value the specialist and dedicated services that exist for homeless people such as the one in Birmingham city centre.’

Last month, an independent report called for the government to adopt a new national housing and homeless strategy and devolve more powers to councils.

The Local Government Homelessness Commission (LGHC), which was established by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) says the recent dramatic rise in homelessness across the country is the result of a ‘national policy failure’.

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