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Terminally ill homeless people struggle to get adequate end of life care, study shows

New research shows many terminally ill homeless people live in hostels without access to professional care.
Hostel-

Terminally ill homeless people are dying without receiving professional end of life care and support, a study has revealed.

Researchers at Marie Curie palliative care research department at University College London (UCL) found that many homeless people who may be approaching the end of their lives are living in hostels.

UCL and charities Mungos and Pathway, and clinical service provider Coordinate My Care,worked with homeless people and care professionals for the study.

Hostel staff, rather than trained professionals, often care for some of the sickest homeless people, according to the research.

The study is one of the first of its kind to describe the lack of appropriate services for homeless people in the UK from the perspectives of the homeless and those supporting them.

Caroline Shulman, chair of the RCNi editorial board, and part of the Pathway and Marie Curie

Terminally ill homeless people are dying without receiving professional end of life care and support, a study has revealed.

Hostel
Picture: Alamy

Researchers at Marie Curie palliative care research department at University College London (UCL) found that many homeless people who may be approaching the end of their lives are living in hostels.

UCL and charities Mungo’s and Pathway, and clinical service provider Coordinate My Care,worked with homeless people and care professionals for the study.

Hostel staff, rather than trained professionals, often care for some of the sickest homeless people, according to the research.

The study is one of the first of its kind to describe the lack of appropriate services for homeless people in the UK from the perspectives of the homeless and those supporting them.

Caroline Shulman, chair of the RCNi editorial board, and part of the Pathway and Marie Curie palliative care research department, led the research.

She warned: ‘Hostels provide temporary accommodation. They are not designed to meet the needs of seriously or terminally ill residents.

‘Hostel staff often struggle to secure additional support from social services or palliative care services for their residents, many of whom have complex problems.’

Tri-morbidity

The study, published in the journal Palliative Medicine, assessed data from focus groups and interviews involving 28 single homeless people, 10 formerly homeless people, 48 health and social care providers, 30 hostel staff, and 10 outreach staff.  

The data was collected between October 2015 and October 2016 from three London boroughs. 

Many homeless people experience tri-morbidity, a combination of physical and mental health problems and substance misuse.

The researchers have called for greater multidisciplinary working, extended in-reach into hostels from health and social services, training for all professional groups, and more access to appropriate supported accommodation.

They recommend a specialist health hostel, with staff who can not only understand the complex needs of homeless people, but can also offer adequate 24-hour support for people with serious illnesses, including those who are dying.

A recent Care Quality Commission report acknowledges that people from specific groups in society, including homeless people, experience poorer quality care at the end of their lives and that more must to done to tackle this problem. 

Read the research here


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