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The term ‘homeless’ is often associated by the public as people who sleep rough, in this context the term includes anyone who does not have a home.

For example, people whose accommodation is insecure; those facing eviction, living in temporary accommodation, squatting, people at risk of violence, those housed in property potentially damaging to their health, and those who cannot afford their current accommodation. 

Data is collected nationally for England on the number of people reported as homeless, including rough sleepers and those seeking accommodation support. Published in the government, the Homelessness statistics data show an increase in all categories.

Health outcomes for those who are homeless are significantly worse than the general population.

In a report commissioned by Crisis, Homelessness: A Silent Killer (2011) the average age of death of a homeless person was reported as 47 years for men and 43 years for women (compared to 77 years for the general population).

  • Drug and alcohol abuse are particularly common causes of death amongst the homeless population, accounting for just over a third of all deaths
  • Homeless people are over nine times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

A study from the charity Groundswell Room to breathe (2016) estimated that smoking rates in homeless people to be 85% in comparison to around 18% for the rest of the population.

The Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI) facts about homelessness and health demonstrate that those who are homeless suffer significantly more than the general population against a range of different diseases and illnesses.

Access to health care NHS

Many homeless people experience problems and stigma when trying to access primary care GP practice health care. When coupled with the fact that many people also have mental health issues this serves as a significant barrier.

The NHS guidance states that to register and receive treatment at a GP practice:

  • you do not need a fixed address
  • you do not need identification
  • your immigration status does not matter.

GP practices will often ask patients for ID, primarily so they can get records from previous doctors. People should be advised that they may be asked for ID but the practice cannot refuse if you don’t have these. 

For more information see: 


Useful resources 

Career development for nurses working with homeless people   

The Queens Nursing Institute has published Transition to Homeless Health Nursing which provides resources to support people wishing to develop their career in working with homeless people.

Page last updated - 07/12/2023