Access to and the experience of health and social care services for rough sleepers in West Berkshire

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Summary of report content

Healthwatch West Berkshire investigated the experiences that homeless people have when accessing health and social care services in West Berkshire. Interviews with 14 rough sleepers were conducted using a questionnaire developed in conjunction with homeless supporting organisations and the police. 

The homeless people who participated in this project reported that they have had negative experiences with statutory local services, which have resulted in them feeling disheartened and disconnected with the help they received. It was also highlighted that homeless people experience a number of challenges including negative stereotyping which pushes them further away from society. Additionally, the feedback indicated that day-to-day basic needs are often a priority ahead of the larger underlying mental and physical issues. The interviewees often felt that service providers lacked insight and understanding of the connection between alcohol and substance dependency with homelessness. It was reported that obtaining medication is challenging, especially as there are difficulties accessing free prescriptions. 

Healthwatch West Berkshire made a number of recommendations including that health and wellbeing bodies need to recognise the links between mental health and homelessness and improve crisis provision. Introduce an outreach service to address the lack of access to treatment and also introduce annual medical and dental checks to identify life-threatening conditions. It was recommended that there should be an increase in choice for homeless people to be involved in decisions relating to care and support with statutory and voluntary agencies. It was suggested that the WBC and local stakeholders form a working group to examine the feasibility of a trial of schemes such as the Rough Sleeping Social Impact Bond, Housing First and innovative proposals, including the Universal Basic Income. 

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General details

Report title 
Access to and the experience of health and social care services for rough sleepers in West Berkshire
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch West Berkshire
Date of publication 
Friday, 24 May, 2019
Type of report 
Key themes 
Communication between staff and patients
Cost of services
Holistic support
Information providing
Staff attitudes
Healthwatch reference number 

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Primary research method used 
Structured interview
How was the information collected? 
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Primary care services 
Dentist (non-hospital)
GP practice
Mental health services 
Community mental health team (CMHT)

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
Specific ethnicity if known 
Sexual orientation 
Other population characteristics 
Homeless people
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Not applicable
Does the information include staff's views? 
Not applicable
Does the information include other people's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Not known
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
What type of impact was determined? 
Network related impact

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.