Meeting the needs of homeless people attending the emergency department
Intended for healthcare professionals

Meeting the needs of homeless people attending the emergency department

Samantha Dorney-Smith Nursing Fellow, Pathway, London, England
Kendra Schneller Nurse practitioner, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London, England
Anna Swift A&E Matron, University College London NHS Foundation Trust, London, England
Helen Phelan Lead Nurse/Manager, Outreach Services, Bevan Healthcare, Bradford, England
Zana Khan GP, National Institute for Health Research fellow, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Beckenham, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To recognise the unmet needs of homeless people who attend the emergency department

  • To increase your awareness of the barriers that homeless people may experience when attempting to access healthcare services, and how these could be addressed

  • To count towards revalidation as part of your 35 hours of CPD, or you may wish to write a reflective account (UK readers)

  • To contribute towards your professional development and local registration renewal requirements (non-UK readers)

Homelessness is on the rise in the UK and, over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of emergency department (ED) attendances and admissions by homeless people. Those attending the ED will often have multiple unmet health, housing and social care needs. While it is not possible to meet all these needs in the ED, emergency nurses should be equipped with the knowledge and skills required to communicate with, refer and signpost patients who are homeless.

Under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, ED staff have a duty to refer homeless people, with their consent, to local authorities for assistance. This article details the barriers that homeless people may experience when accessing healthcare services and explains how these can be addressed. It also outlines the actions that emergency nurses can take to improve the care of homeless people in the ED at an individual and a systems level.

Emergency Nurse. doi: 10.7748/en.2020.e2025

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software



Conflict of interest

None declared

Dorney-Smith S, Schneller K, Swift A et al (2020) Meeting the needs of homeless people attending the emergency department. Emergency Nurse. doi: 10.7748/en.2020.e2025

Published online: 09 June 2020

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