Congress votes to urge government into action over homelessness

RCN members discuss lack of social housing and making healthcare more accessible

RCN members discuss lack of social housing and making healthcare more accessible

Maria Trewern said everyone has ‘a right to health and social care’.
​​​​Picture: John Houlihan

Nurses are calling on RCN council to hold the government to account for its ‘inaction over the health crisis of homelessness’.

College members passed the resolution during Tuesday’s RCN congress, where speakers also voiced their concerns that a lack of secure, affordable housing was a barrier to accessing health and social care.

According to the Queen’s Nursing Institute, people experiencing homelessness commonly present to health services with mental health conditions, skin diseases, respiratory disease, substance addiction and communicable diseases.

The right to housing

Maria Trewern, a non-voting member from Buckinghamshire, talked about ‘the decimation of social local housing’.  

‘I lay that back to this government and other governments,’ she said, ‘because it is a right to have a roof over your head, it is a right to have health and social care.’

Heather Mercer. 
Picture: John Houlihan

Council member for the south east, Heather Mercer, said nurses needed to engage with other providers, such as the police and local government, when caring for homeless people. 

However, she added that homelessness is a ‘complex issue’.

Respecting people’s choice

‘Where I live, there are some homeless people who have been housed and they choose to have nights out on the streets because they are missing it,’ she said. 

‘Let’s be aware that we have to respect choice but we should never accept second-class service for anyone.’

University of Buckingham nursing student Natasja Collins championed nurses’ role in making healthcare more accessible to homeless people.

‘I think towns and cities should have some kind of drop-in, non-judgemental, confidential GP services and sexual health clinics,’ she said.

‘People feel like they are going to be judged because they haven’t got a home.’

The debate was originally proposed as a matter for discussion by the North Yorkshire branch, but was changed to a congress resolution so the issue could be prioritised by RCN council.

Read all the latest from RCN congress 2019 

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