New Draft NICE Guideline on Improving Care for People Experiencing Homelessness

Priscilla Lynch 

October 08, 2021

A new draft guideline to increase access to health and social care services and improve health outcomes for people experiencing homelessness has been jointly published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the Centre for Homelessness Impact (CHI).

The draft guideline covers people aged over 16 years experiencing homelessness, including people sleeping rough, staying in temporary accommodations or ‘sofa surfing’ with family and friends.

The draft guideline highlights that more effort and targeted approaches are often needed to ensure that people experiencing homelessness have access to the same standard of health and social care as the general population.

It recommends that care should be delivered via specialist multidisciplinary teams, which span all sectors of care, and be tailored to meet local needs. This care should encompass the physical health needs, mental health and psychological needs, drug and recovery needs and social care needs of people experiencing homelessness.

The draft recommendations suggest offering mobile outreach services with flexible opening and appointment times, drop-in services and help with transport, which they say would reduce barriers homeless people experience in accessing health and care services. They should not be penalised for missing appointments, for example, by being discharged from the service. Peer supporters and advocates can help the person attend appointments or re-engage with care after missing appointments.

The draft guideline also recommends that long-term engagement should be planned to help people who struggle to engage with services. Practitioners should take time to build a relationship of trust with the person, particularly when they first engage with services.

Dr Paul Chrisp, Director of the NICE Centre for Guidelines, said: “People experiencing homelessness face significant barriers to accessing health and social care compared with the general population, which results in huge health inequalities."

“‘Homelessness’ is a broad term as outlined by our draft guideline, and does not simply refer to a person sleeping rough on the streets. By better understanding which people are experiencing homelessness and what their specific needs are, health and social care professionals will be better able to help them access the services they require.”

Dr Lígia Teixeira, Chief Executive of CHI, said: "The quality of services offered to people who are most excluded from society is too often far behind that offered to the general population.”

"People who experience homelessness often have poorer health, especially mental health, and this guideline is an important step towards making health and social care services more accessible to them. It is very important to ensure that their needs as individuals are met and the guideline shows how this can be done sensitively and flexibly."

The draft guideline will be out for consultation until 3 November 2021.

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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