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Should I tell doctors I'm homeless?

September 05 2018
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Answers from readers via our Facebook page.

Q: Should I tell doctors I'm homeless?

Answers from our Facebook page

Denise: Tell everything you feel comfortable disclosing. Especially make a point of informing staff about the difficulties of taking meds without access to clean water. Also if the meds state "Take with food" point out you don't know when you will next be able to eat. Discuss issues around making it back for appointments. If you have a wound dressing, tell your doctor or nurse you are going to have trouble keeping it clean. I used to work in an Emergency Department and I know that many medical and nursing staff really don't realise the impact having no home has on patients. I have also witnessed staff being a bit judgemental. If you feel you are being discriminated against, then ask to see someone else.

Lesley: Yes. Tell the nurses/doctor so they can offer the appropriate aid.

Jerome: It shouldn’t matter or affect the level of care received.

Allie: I give a friend’s address (with their consent).

Jo: Always tell them. There are homeless teams in an increasing number of hospitals, e.g., London, Brighton, Bristol, Bradford. In A&E, we’re limited to advice and signposting but in almost five years we’ve almost always got someone discharged into accommodation. And if we’ve failed, it’s due to immigration status or lack of worker status.

Jan: I’m a mental health support worker. Always tell people in A&E. The same goes for domestic violence, but tell staff in private without the abuser being there.

Jill: Information on homelessness charities and organisations should be available to take away from the hospitals.


What the hospitals say

Here's the hospital advice

University College Hospital (UCH)’s new booklet about Homeless Healthcare will help you look after yourself better after a visit to hospital. It’s written by their Pathway Homeless Healthcare team (which includes former homeless people) and will be available in English as well as Amharic, Arabic, French, Polish, Spanish, Romanian and Russian. Here's what they say.

1. When you are ready to be discharged from hospital your nurse should make sure that you have:
• A copy of the hospital discharge letter that will be sent to your GP
• All the medications you are due to receive, with information about them, including usage and storage
• Details of future care required from other health professionals (such as a GP or practice nurse)
• Details of any actions you need to take yourself to assist with your recovery.

2. If this has not happened, ask your nurse for help before you leave. Please try to make sure you have:
• Given the ward administrator any forwarding address / details that will enable the hospital to contact you.
• Asked your nurse for any medical certificates you need for support with benefits
• Collected any money or valuables you have handed in.
Use a roof: some bridges offer plenty of dry space to sleep or store your stuff.


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