Is Being Homeless Bad For Your Health?

Housing and Homelessness News

I Diagnose The Need For A Homeless Healthcare & Triage Hub


Why is being homeless in Brighton & Hove bad for your health? Last year Dr Tim Worthley told the Action on Homes policy conference on a Housing and Homelessness that “being homeless is bad for your health”. That comment has never left me, because I remember when I was homeless and how that made my pre-existing conditions so much worse. 

So it got me thinking and to be honest health has been an area I have some concerns around, particularly in certain communities and populations within Brighton & Hove, for example I was actually doing some research on the Whitehawk Estate the and health of that local population in comparison with other areas. 

The government has a handy tool where you can set indicators, Physical Health & Mental Health are the areas of interest. The tool allowed me to search right into local data per GP Surgery and their patients which is amazing.

This led me to the data for Arch Healthcare, which is in the same areas CENTRAL and EAST, as the two Whitehawk GP Surgeries I am looking into. Anyway the results have been quite shocking and I will provide you with some the latest information, never before published in such detail.  

Arch Healthcare Patient Survey Analysis

Homeless patients reporting a long term Mental Health Problem

In the context of Arch Healthcare, a specialised GP surgery catering to homeless patients in Brighton and Hove, the data shows the percentage of homeless patients reporting a long-term mental health problem over the years 2018 to 2022.

Over this period, the percentage of homeless patients reporting long-term mental health problems has fluctuated. In 2018, the percentage stood at 73.4%, indicating a significant portion of homeless patients experiencing mental health issues. The subsequent years saw fluctuations, with a decrease to 61.8% in 2019, followed by an increase to 71.1% in 2020. The year 2021 witnessed a substantial rise, reaching 81.5%, suggesting an elevated prevalence of mental health problems among homeless patients. The percentage then slightly decreased to 78.6% in 2022.

Comparing these figures to the local area, East & Central Brighton, the data reveals a similar trend. Patients in this region also experienced fluctuations in the reported percentage of long-term mental health problems. The percentages for this area were 17.8%, 15.8%, 16.3%, 18.1%, and 21.2% for the years 2018 through 2022, respectively.

It’s noteworthy that these percentages are notably higher than the national average for England, which stood at 9.1% in 2018, increased to 10.5% in 2020, and further rose to 11.0% in 2021, finally reaching 12.3% in 2022.

This data indicates a concerning pattern of higher prevalence of long-term mental health issues among homeless patients, both in the local Brighton and Hove area as well as in comparison to the national average.  

You can read the harrowing realities of being homeless in Brighton & Hove Lived Experience Survey Report which highlights issues homeless clients have reported which contribute to their poor mental health.  

Arch patients reporting a Long Standing Health Condition

In 2018, a significant portion of homeless patients, namely 87.6%, reported experiencing long-standing health problems. This percentage dropped to nil (indicating no data available) in 2019, possibly due to data collection or reporting variations. The subsequent years, 2020, 2021, and 2022, witnessed percentages of 84.5%, 82.2%, and 90.9% respectively, demonstrating some variations in the reported prevalence of long-standing health issues among homeless patients.

Comparing the local East & Central Brighton area, a similar trend can be observed. The percentages of homeless patients reporting long-standing health problems for this area were 54.1%, nil, 57.3%, 52.6%, and 59.8% for the years 2018 through 2022 respectively.

When compared to the England average, the data shows that homeless patients in both the Brighton and Hove area and the East & Central Brighton area consistently reported higher percentages of long-standing health problems than the national average. In 2018, the England average was 51.4%, and it increased to 52.4% in 2020, then decreased to 51.1% in 2021, and finally, rose to 53.5% in 2022.

These comparisons suggest several important conclusions:

  • Higher Vulnerability Among Homeless Patients: Homeless patients in Brighton and Hove, as served by Arch Healthcare, experience a significantly higher prevalence of long-term standing health problems compared to both the local average and the national trend. This points to a heightened vulnerability to health issues within the homeless population in the Brighton and Hove area.

  • Possible Contributing Factors: The elevated percentages may be attributed to various factors, including accommodation standards, lack of access to mental health therapy, and issues related to gatekeeping and poor customer services in the housing department. These factors could collectively contribute to the poorer health outcomes among homeless individuals.

  • Need for Targeted Interventions: The data underscores the urgent need for targeted interventions and support services for homeless individuals in Brighton and Hove, with a specific focus on addressing their long-term health problems. These interventions should consider the unique challenges faced by this population, including their housing conditions and mental health needs.

  • Advocacy and Policy Implications: As someone passionate about homelessness policy and advocacy, this data should be a powerful tool to advocate for improved housing standards, better access to mental health services, and reforms in the housing department’s customer service practices. It highlights the urgency of addressing these issues to improve the well-being of homeless individuals in our community.

Comparison with other GP Surgeries in the Area

The patient survey results for 2022 shed light on the compassion shown by GP Surgeries, painting a concerning picture. Homeless patients top the tables in every area, a troubling trend given Brighton & Hove’s consistent ranking as the leading local authority in the UK for homeless deaths.

As someone who has lived through homelessness and now advocates for the homeless, I witness firsthand the challenges and the confusion within the 111 services and other organisations. Many leaders in these statutory-funded bodies seem to have lost their drive, treating this as merely a career. Without systematic change and reform, we can’t expect improvement.

Moreover, St Peters Medical Centre, which serve patients in the centre of Brighton, face escalating healthcare needs as does the Whitehawk community. Is there a connection here to poverty & living conditions, such as disrepair, pollution and overcrowded spaces? The voices of those living in these circumstances tell a story that demands attention.

I haven’t included obesity data for Arch because it’s minimal, suggesting that homeless patients are often more fragile and, in recent reports, severely malnourished. It’s my hope that those in positions of power are reading this with shock.

The statistics, my homeless client reports, and investigations into places like Kendal Court make it clear that policy decisions should no longer be left solely to council officers; the input of those with lived experiences, particularly homelessness or mental and physical health challenges, should guide our actions.

Let’s collaborate with them instead of exploiting them for monetary or grant purposes.

Final Thoughts on Homeless Healthcare

In his speech at the Action on Homes Conference, Tim Worthley, a GP at Arch Healthcare, highlighted the grave health implications of homelessness. He shared striking statistics, demonstrating that homeless individuals are significantly more likely to suffer from a range of health issues, leading to a tragically low average age of death. To address this crisis, he proposed a Homeless Healthcare Hub in Central Brighton, offering a comprehensive array of services, including mental health care, housing support, and benefits advice. Such a hub would provide a holistic response to the pressing health needs of the homeless population, aligning with your advocacy interests and the urgent call for change in Brighton and Hove.

Tim Worthley’s insights and recommendations underscore the critical importance of addressing the complex relationship between homelessness and health. This initiative has the potential to significantly improve the well-being of homeless individuals in our community and particularly resonates with my dedication to advocacy and the pursuit of positive change and outcomes for every person experiencing homelessness in Brighton and Hove.

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