Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Hospital aftercare boost

October 09 2013
The Hospital Discharge Network will offer nurses for those who need them (© St Mungos) The Hospital Discharge Network will offer nurses for those who need them (© St Mungos)
£10m government grant to ensure homeless people have somewhere to go on discharge

Over 50 projects across England are to be given a share of a £10 million grant from the UK Government to ensure homeless people have somewhere to go when they leave hospital.

The new cash was first announced by the government in May this year, however details of how and where it would be spent were announced last month.

Key to plans, is an agreement to fund St Mungo’s proposal for a London Homeless Hospital Discharge Network for homeless people, which has been awarded ú3.6million. The network will provide 24 beds in St Mungos projects in Camden, Hackney, Lewisham and Westminster for people who have nowhere to live after leaving hospital but who need further care.

A team of nurses will work alongside health and housing support workers to best help the person move on as their treatment comes to a close.

This recommendation was included in a major report last year, which claimed the NHS was damaging people's health and wasting its own money by discharging homeless patients back onto the street.

According to the report, commissioned by the government and co-authored by Homeless Link and St Mungo's, more than 70% of homeless people currently get discharged from hospital back onto the streets. It pointed to the damage caused to health, as well as to additional costs to the NHS when people were re-admitted.

The report was launched at University College Hospital (UCH), in London, by care services minister Paul Burstow, who said at the time: “Patching a person up and sending them out without a plan makes no sense.”

UCH was picked for the launch as it used a service called the London Pathway, seen as a role model for others hoping to address the issue.

However, a senior source from a London homeless charity told The Pavement that UCH, along with other hospitals such as the Royal London Hospital, had last month planned to discharge a homeless man with complex mental and physical health needs when he still had no housing in place.

He claims the hospital called the charity just one day before the planned discharge.

“The problem is that this is a bolt-on service and when the right people are not on shift, it loses direction,” he said. “It’s a big improvement from the bad old days where ambulances used to drop people off at our door, but there are still gaps all over the place.

“As well as services on the ground we need a cultural and policy change and that should come from the top.”

UCLH defended the Pathway approach, which involves doctors and nurses with special training employed to work in the hospital, as part of care teams.

A spokeswoman for UCLH said: “While no service is perfect, we are proud to have contributed to a growing awareness of the importance of a coordinated response to the complex needs of homeless people.

“In no small part due to the work of the Pathway service, Public Health Minister Anna Soubry came to UCLH this year to announce ú10 million pounds of extra investment to improve the hospital discharge arrangements for homeless people."

The rest of the new cash will be shared between 51 other charities, community projects and NHS Trusts both in London and elsewhere around the UK.

Homeless Link chief executive Rick Henderson said it “will go a long way in addressing a real issue around the way the NHS deals with homeless people leaving hospital”.

• Find out what grants have been made in your area: