NHS mental health outreach to benefit homeless

Towns with high rates of homelessness are set for investment in specialist mental health care, as part of NHS services for rough sleepers across the UK.

More than half of everyone sleeping on the streets lives with a mental health problem, while those affected by homelessness die, on average, around 30 years earlier than the general population. Nearly four in five people living without a roof over their head experiencing childhood trauma, but vulnerable rough sleepers can often face a ‘revolving door’ where they receive treatment and support, only to end up back on the streets.

The NHS-funded services in seven parts of the country will bring in new psychiatrists, psychologists and other experts to offer homeless people advice and treatment to tackle underlying mental ill health. The new NHS-led teams will bring together doctors, nurses and other clinicians to co-ordinate treatment and support with other local organisations including councils.

In each area, outreach teams – comprising NHS and local authority staff – will identify rough sleepers in need of help, support them to access a GP and then on to the new expert psychiatric help.

The first wave of funding is worth almost £12 million over the next five years and will be used to build and scale up comprehensive services across: Birmingham; Brighton; Hull; Lincoln; Lambeth; Luton; and Haringey.

Claire Murdoch, NHS national director for mental health, said: “While the NHS cannot solve homelessness on its own, it is working hard to make sure rough sleepers have easy access to services that are built and designed around their needs – putting an end to the revolving door of trauma care. Many rough sleepers have been through incredibly traumatic experiences which can cause mental ill health or exacerbate problems – often impacting on the type of support they need and this is about stopping people slipping through the net.”

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