Photo of Dr Mary Darking

Scheme to improve healthcare for the homeless

The university is a lead partner on the Common Ambition project which aims to improve healthcare for people experiencing homelessness in Brighton and Hove.

Principal Lecturer from the School of Applied Social Science and project academic lead Dr Mary Darking said: “This project is crucial to our city where so many of us feel frustrated and deeply saddened by the suffering that people experience whilst homeless.

“To be involved in improving these vital health services over the next three years is a huge privilege, particularly given the commitment this project has to ensuring that it is the voices and needs of those experiencing homelessness that will drive change.”

The project will use innovative methods to ensure patients are at the centre of evaluating and designing improvements to the services which they use, including peer research and the use of ‘collaborative pairs’ – an approach which brings patients and clinicians together with commissioners, service providers and academics in order to better understand a healthcare system and its successes and flaws from one another’s viewpoint.

This learning will drive systemic change in the way health services are commissioned and delivered for homeless patients in the city and will ultimately reduce the dire health inequalities which currently exist. Insights will also be used to inform service improvements across the region and further afield.

The need for improved homeless health services is significant: homelessness has a huge impact on the physical health of the individual. According to the Faculty for Homeless Health, people experiencing homelessness are 34 times more likely to have tuberculosis, 50 times more likely to have Hepatitis C, 12 times more likely to have epilepsy, six times more likely to have heart disease, and five times more likely to have a stroke.

Recent research by Homeless Link showed that in addition to physical health issues, 86% of individuals experiencing homelessness have mental health problems, 39% take drugs or are recovering from a drug problem and 27% have, or are recovering from, an alcohol problem.

The university is working on the project, led by Arch Health, in partnership with Justlife, Brighton & Hove CCG and Public Health Departments. The project is funded by the Health Foundation, an independent charity committed to bringing about better healthcare for people in the UK. The three-year project launches in January 2021.

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