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Plan pledges £30m investment into mental health service access for the homeless

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NHS England have promised to invest up to £30m extra on meeting the needs of rough sleepers, as part of the new long-term plan.

The NHS Long Term Plan, published yesterday, includes a chapter dedicated to providing “stronger action on health inequalities”.

“We are pleased the plan makes a specific commitment to improving healthcare provision for people sleeping rough”

Dominic Williamson

In it, NHS England has announced that it will invest into rough sleepers to ensure that the parts of the country that are most affected by rough sleeping with have better access to specialist homelessness mental health support.

According to the long-term plan, “50% of people sleeping rough have mental health needs, but many parts of the country with large numbers of rough sleepers do not have specialist mental health support and access to mainstream services is challenging”.

It noted that outside London, where often people are more likely to sleep rough for longer, support needs may be higher.

The health service added that 31% of people affected by homelessness have complex needs and additional financial, interpersonal and emotional needs that can make engagement with mainstream services difficult.

Therefore, NHS England has agreed to invest £30m to provide better access to services, integrated with existing outreach services, the plan explained.

St Mungo’s, a charity which helps people experiencing homelessness, said it has welcomed the publication of the long-term plan with its commitment to invest in helping to improve the health of people who are sleeping rough.

It reiterated that the additional funding would be used to fund specialist NHS mental health support, integrated with existing homelessness outreach services.

The charity stated news of the funding follows pressure from St Mungo’s and more than 20 other organisations representing nurses, outreach workers and homeless health professionals to tackle the shocking health inequalities facing people who sleep rough.

According to the charity, people who are homeless experience some of the worst health outcomes in England, and, on average, die 30 years earlier than the general population.

It claimed rough sleeping had “risen by 169% since 2010 and the number of people who have died while homeless has risen by 24% since 2013”.

For those seen sleeping rough in London in 2017-18, the charity stated that “50% had mental health problems, 43% had alcohol problems and 40% had drug problems”.

In a survey of street outreach services across England, carried out last year by St Mungo’s, 70% said mental health services for people sleeping rough had got harder to access compared with five years ago, and 42% said the same for substance use services, the charity explained.

Dominic Williamson, executive director of strategy and policy at St Mungo’s, said: “We are pleased that ministers have listened and that the NHS Long Term Plan makes a specific commitment to improving healthcare provision for people sleeping rough.

“This commitment must be the start of a real effort to reduce the shocking health inequalities and premature deaths of people who are homeless.

“This means investing in specialist services and ensuring people with the most complex needs can access vital support to improve their health, including mental health and substance use problems,” he said.

The new 10-year plan for the health service was published on Monday at 12pm, after being delayed since the end of last year – reportedly due to the chaos around Brexit.

The blueprint sets out how the £20.5bn annual budget increase for the health service, which was promised last summer by prime minister Theresa May, will be spent.

Ahead of its full publication, some of the main aims and innovations set to be included in the plan were revealed in bite-size chunks over the festive period and in a more comprehensive statement yesterday by NHS England.

Maternity care, children’s services, cancer care, mental health and heart disease were all highlighted as being set to benefit, along with funding boosts for community care, digital technology and prevention.

The last time a 10-year strategy document was drawn up covering the whole health service in England was the NHS Plan, which was published in 2000 by the Labour government under Tony Blair.

  • More details on the NHS Long Term Plan can be found on a website created by NHS England along with the document itself.
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