A Scottish Government Minister has visited Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy to witness for himself the success of a groundbreaking health and homelessness project.
Kevin Stewart, Housing Minister, heard from those responsible for the initiative which is providing vital support for homeless patients requiring hospital care.
The two-year pilot, supported by £173,000 of funding from Shelter Scotland with contributions from Fife Health and Social Care Partnership. is designed to prevent homelessness and reduce long-term cost to the NHS.
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In 2018, Scottish Government health and homelessness data showed that the rate of attendance at A&E was almost twice as high for households experiencing homelessness as those from the most deprived areas, and three and a half times higher than those from the least deprived areas
Since its introduction in 2018, the initiative has improved the lives of patients with multiple and complex needs and saves vital NHS resources by getting the right advice to people in hospital who might otherwise not seek out help with housing problems.
During the project, health staff have referred patients who are homeless or at immediate risk of losing their home to advisers from the homelessness charity, Shelter Scotland, based at the hospital, who will work with them to resolve housing issues.
One patient, who was admitted suffering seizures brought on by the stress of being homeless, is just one of the many given support.
He told the Press: “The best thing was being treated with humanity, not being treated as a customer.”They helped me work out what my next steps should be and gave whatever help they could to help me meet my own goals.
“The support was phenomenal. In a way knowing that I had someone fighting for me made me fight for myself a little bit more.”
Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland, said: “The project demonstrates how improved links between healthcare and housing can deliver better health for patients and be more cost effective for the NHS by cutting repeat visits.
“In the initial six months, the project saw over 50 people benefit, with most patients only having to wait 24 hours before they leave hospital rather than the average six weeks and there have been major savings for the NHS.”
Michael Kellet, director, Fife Health & Social Care Partnership added: “We recognised that patients coming into hospital often needed more than medical support.
“People were also attending the emergency department for medical and social care support which would be better planned and delivered within the community.
“By working closely with the hospital teams, staff have provided direct support for patients resulting in more sustainable community supports for individuals.”