Drunk and overdosing homeless people put strain on NHS

One drunk or drug addicted homeless person is admitted to hospital every three hours, putting a severe strain on the National Health Service, new figures show.

The rate of drug and drink related admissions of homeless people has risen by 117 per cent since 2004, with six out of 10 hospital trusts reporting that numbers have gone up in the last five years.

Many of the rough sleepers had overdosed or suffered infections from using dirty needles to inject drugs such as heroin, while others needed their stomachs pumped after drinking too much.

The figures, contained in a series of answers to freedom of information requests put in to 173 hospital trusts, were released by the Conservatives, who issued a report setting out the importance of understanding the health needs of homeless people.

In particular, the party wants the availability of cheap alcohol in supermarkets to be curtailed, and for health boards to work with local homeless charities such as Shelter to consider the best ways to help homeless people in their area.

Grant Shapps, the shadow housing minister, said: “A refusal to confront the extent of the homlessness issue in the United Kingdom leaves our frontline services such as the NHS struggling to cope.

“Our report demonstrates how drugs and alcohol frequently play a major role in perpetuating the chaotic lives lived by many people trapped in homelessness. This is one of the reasons why Conservatives will fix the crazy situation whereby supermarkets are selling high strength larger for less than they charge for a bottle water.”

The report shows that nearly 14,000 homeless people were admitted to hospital with drink and drug-related conditions in the last five years, the equivalent of eight a day or one rough sleeper every three hours.

London had the most admissions, followed by Liverpool and Leeds.

More than 10 per cent of rough sleepers who ended up in hospital for alcohol or drugs were under the age of 25, even though young people are estimated to account for between six and seven per cent of the homeless population.


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