We were particularly interested in finding out about the barriers homeless people face when accessing and using local services. We spoke to five organisations working with homeless people across the county and 25 homeless people or people who had been recently homeless in Northampton, Rushden and Wellingborough.
We heard about some good support for homeless people in Northampton and other towns, particularly that provided by homeless charities, but the support available across the county appears to be variable. Access to GP practices was not a big problem although in some parts of the county people had to register at GP practices some distance away. We also learnt that homeless people often distrust GPs and health professionals, feeling they do not understand their lives and the issues they face, or that they do not need to register with these services if they are not ill or in pain. Rather than wanting better access to services such as GPs and dentists, the homeless people we spoke to prioritised their more immediate needs, such as having somewhere to sleep, dry feet and podiatry services, and access to good, hot food.
We also learnt about alcohol use and how this can be a barrier to people accessing mental health services and other support.
Many homeless people experience mental health issues and access to psychiatrists and Community Psychiatric Nurses (CPNs) was difficult for some, particularly outside of Northampton.
Healthwatch Northamptonshire recommends that healthcare and support for the homeless in Northamptonshire could be more coordinated through assertive outreach and support for charitable organisations and that mobile clinics held at the premises of homeless support organisation are an effective way of providing healthcare to this group.