Homelessness and health campaign

People experiencing homelessness are significantly more likely to suffer some form of mental or physical health problem. We are campaigning to improve the services that prevent and treat the issue.   

The issue

Poor health is widespread amongst homeless people. Our latest research showed that 73% suffered from a physical health problem, and 80% a mental health problem. 39% said they took drugs or were recovering from a drug problem, whilst 27% had, or were recovering from, an alcohol problem. 

People living in dangerous conditions, such as squats or on the streets, are more likely to have unhealthy lifestyles which can cause long-term health problems or exacerbate existing issues. Data indicates that 77% of homeless people smoke, 35% do not eat at least two meals a day and two-thirds consume more than the recommended amount of alcohol each time they drink.

Despite high levels of GP registration, a significant number of homeless people are not receiving the help they need with their health issues. More than a quarter of those who are receiving some treatment said they would like more help.

Homeless people are heavy users of acute NHS services; the latest data indicates that the number of A&E visits and hospital admissions per homeless person is four times higher than for the general public. This is estimated to cost a minimum of £85m per year. 

The solution

We have made a number of recommendations for action across the health system to tackle this homeless health inequality. We are calling for improvements in:


Homelessness services to support clients to register and engage with GP, dental and optician services.

The NHS to offer a full health check to anyone identified as homeless and a care plan to treat any mental or physical health conditions. 


Primary care services to be more targeted to the specific needs of homeless patients, and housing and health are joined up as part of the same pathway. 

Greater investment in the homelessness sector for approaches known to improve the way homeless people engage with the health system.


NHS England and Public Health England to publish a clearer set of actions about their plans to reduce the health inequalities of homeless people.

The Department of Health to continue coordinating the Inclusion Health work-stream at a national level. 

Inspection and accountability

Public reports to be published on the assessment of the quality of services offered to homeless people and recommendations for improvement. 

Clinical Commissioning Groups to state how far they have improved access to services and health outcomes for homeless people as part of their annual reporting requirements.


Homeless Link first conducted research into the health of homeless people in 2010 and there are signs that improvements have been made since then. According to the latest data, 36% of homeless people admitted to hospital report being discharged onto the streets with nowhere to go.  In 2010, this issue was reported by 73% of respondents admitted to hospital. 

We are continuing to work closely with our members, the NHS and Healthwatch England to implement the recommendations made in our report and improve the way homelessness and healthcare services work together to provide support. 

We are currently working with our members and the Health and Wellbeing Alliance partners to influence the development of the NHS long-term plan. A discussion guide (also in an easy read version) is available to help stimulate ideas across three key themes – life stage, clinical priorities and enablers of improvement. Please contact Michaela Des Forges at Michaela.DesForges@homelesslink.org.uk or 0207 840 4475 by 24 September 2018 to share your views and inform our response.

'Needs to know' Research 2013

Produced by St Mungo’s Broadway and Homeless Link this 2014 audit of Health and Wellbeing Boards looks at whether the health needs of homeless people are being included in the planning and commissioning of healthcare services.


The unhealthy state of homelessness: Health audit results 2014

The unhealthy state of homelessness report explores the health and wellbeing of homeless people in England and the support that is available to them. 


Improving hospital admission and discharge for people who are homeless 2012

This report draws together the direct experiences of homeless people and professionals to provide an updated national picture of hospital admission and discharge practice for patients who are homeless.  It identifies examples of effective working, as well as where improvements still need to be made.


Talk To Us

Helen Mathie

Helen Mathie

Head of policy and communications

Helen job shares her role with Caroline Bernard, jointly overseeing Homeless Link’s policy, research, information and communications team. Helen is currently on maternity leave. 

What is your area doing to improve the health of your clients?

Our Health Needs Audit Toolkit helps you assess local health trends and turn that assessment into practical action.