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Rough sleepers in homeless hotspots to get increased NHS mental health support

Rough sleepers in towns with high rates of homelessness are to benefit from specialist NHS mental health care across the country.

19/06/23

Rough sleepers in homeless hotspots to get increased NHS mental health support

Fourteen new outreach teams are starting work on specialist mental health support for rough sleepers.

There are an estimated 3,069 people sleeping rough on any given night in England, according to government figures.

Common mental health conditions – such as depression, anxiety, and panic disorder – are over twice as high among homeless people, with psychosis up to 15 times as high.

Research shows people are around 50% more likely to have spent over a year sleeping rough if they are also experiencing mental ill health.

The teams will join 23 teams already in place working with around 100 people a week to offer support from specialist mental health practitioners and other experts including 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 and charities.

The new services are part of co-ordinated efforts to ensure that rough sleepers have better access to NHS mental health support – joining up care with existing outreach, accommodation, drug and alcohol and physical healthcare services.

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 mental health support and care.

Professor Tim Kendall, NHS England Clinical National Director for Mental Health, said the measures are part of a drive to tackle health inequalities.

“NHS teams working with local authorities will seek out rough sleepers who have often been through incredibly traumatic experiences to ensure they get the help they need – and do not fall through the cracks.

“While the NHS cannot solve homelessness on its own, we are trying to reach out to homeless people and working hard to ensure that those who need mental health support get it. To do that, we are making it as easy as possible to access services, designed and built around patients’ needs.”

The mental health care will sit alongside existing support for rough sleepers, including for example, one to one support from a specified caseworker who can help with everything from housing advice to attending NHS appointments – and will keep in contact with the patient for as long as is required.

The programme is backed by funding worth £3.2million which will be used over the next year to build and scale up services across areas the country.

Michael, 48, who was found rough sleeping in a shop doorway when he came to the attention of an existing Homeless Mental Health Team who offered him support. Describing the impact the clinic had on his life, Michael said he used to dread waking up in the morning, but now he can’t wait to get up.

“I really was at the gates of hell. I think losing my father had a massive effect on me although I hadn’t really grieved properly. I was numb, emotionally and physically, and when I think back, I realised I didn’t have long left to live. My support workers tell me I was on their radar because I was at risk of death.

“On Christmas Day 2021 I stopped everything bad. Drugs, drink, tablets – everything finished. Even though I was getting so much help from the teams I was doing my own bit as well.

“I started believing in myself and my confidence and now I’m about 90% of what I want to be.”

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