Groundbreaking Fife project to help homeless people at A&E

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Homeless people attending A&E at the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy are to be given specialist housing advice as part of a ground-breaking service from charity, Shelter Scotland, and Fife Health and Social Care Partnership.

It’s hoped the new service can improve the lives of patients with multiple and complex needs – and save vital NHS resources by getting the right advice to people in hospital who might otherwise not seek out help with housing problems.

Two specialist advisers will be based at Vic during the two-year trial which is formally launched today (Monday, April 23)

Alison Watson, deputy director for Shelter Scotland, said: “People experiencing homelessness are more likely to suffer from ill-health and the lack of stable, suitable accommodation is a big factor in this.

‘‘A good home is fundamental to our health and well-being.

“This project aims to demonstrate how improved links between healthcare and housing can deliver better health for patients and be more cost effective for the NHS by cutting the number of repeat visits.”

The project is backed by £173,000 of funding with the majority coming from Shelter Scotland with contributions from Fife HSCP and Fife Council.

Homeless people are 3.8 times more likely to attend A&E and 2.2 times more likely to be admitted to hospital than people who are settled in a home of their own.

During the project, health staff will refer patients who are homeless or at immediate risk of losing their home to Shelter Scotland advisers in the hospital who will work with them to resolve housing issues. Among the expected benefits are a reduction in delayed discharge cases.

In the first six weeks the service has seen 19 people benefit, with the majority of patients only having to wait 24 hours before they leave hospital rather than the average six weeks.

Michael Kellet, director of Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, said: ‘‘We are delighted to be working with Shelter Scotland to bring this vital initiative to Fife.

‘‘The early signs are positive.

‘‘People who are homeless or at risk of homelessness often have varied and complex needs. By partnering with Shelter Scotland, we are working together to support people into safe and appropriate accommodation earlier.

“By working as one team, our aim is to help prevent re-admissions, and attendances at the emergency department by supporting the wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable in our community. I look forward to watching the programme progress over the next 12 months.”

The project also has the backing of NHSFife.

Tricia Marwick, chairman, said: “We cannot underestimate the value this will bring to people who potentially could be facing an uncertain or unstable future when leaving hospital. Frontline staff will benefit too as they are reassured that the person leaving the hospital door will go into a more secure and stable environment which they can hopefully call home.”

Those who receive help from the Intervention Service will be asked for their feedback to help health and housing services work more effectively together in the future.

Healthcare Improvement Scotland will provide improvement advice and support to help in the planning of the project and in evaluation of the service.

Dianne Foster, associate improvement advisor, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, said: “Being able to demonstrate the impact and outcome of new ways of working is not easy and we are pleased to be working in partnership with Shelter Scotland, providing support to the local team to build their knowledge and skills around improvement and to consider how best to evaluate this new service.”