Healthcare Hub to transform services for the homeless

Date published: 18 October 2018

A new hub which will support the health and social care needs of homeless people is to be opened in Belfast.

The Department of Health has today published a report on improving access to health and social care services for people who are homeless. It was compiled by a group led by Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride, and this work led to the development of this innovative project.

The aim of the hub is to bring services out of the clinic setting and into the community and on to the streets, to wrap care around the people who need it most, where they need it. This will include physical and mental health care and addictions services for those sleeping rough or in hostel accommodation.

The initiative will be managed by the Belfast HSC Trust and is part of ongoing work to transform Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care system. The Homeless Hub illustrates how health care transformation can make a real difference – enhancing care and making it more accessible, while also reducing reliance on hospital attendances. Evidence from other areas has shown that this type of outreach service reduces the need for Emergency Department attendances and hospital admissions.

Homeless people suffer extreme health inequalities. Homeless people also face barriers in accessing mainstream health care services.

The pilot will run for an initial eighteen months with an investment of £225,000 from the Department of Health’s Transformation fund and will build upon the existing Belfast Trust homeless public health nursing service, and upon services provided by the voluntary sector. The pilot will provide invaluable evidence and learning to help inform future service development for people who are homeless across all of Northern Ireland

The hub initiative is being led by Nurse Susan Semple from Belfast Trust, who has worked with homeless people for over 20 years.

It is anticipated that premises for the hub will be identified in the near future.

Susan Semple Health Care Coordinator, Belfast Trust said “This is a wonderful opportunity to have secured funding to transform health and social care services for societies most vulnerable population. In over twenty years this is the biggest investment we have ever received that will enable us to enhance service delivery, provide timely meaningful services and improve access to secondary and allied health care services. This new approach will ensure a future voice to advocate for the health needs of this population.”

Dr Gillian Armstrong, Senior Medical Officer at the Department of Health said: “People experiencing homelessness have complex health and social care needs, but face real challenges in accessing services.

“This new Homeless Hub will deliver joined up services and care in the community, ensuring that homeless people can access care when and where they need it.

“This innovative initiative is being funded by the Department’s Transformation fund – ‘Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together’. This will increase access to health care and ultimately improve health outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.”

Next month, a Homelessness and Health Symposium will take place covering a range of public health topics in relation to homeless.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The funding being provided will include: 2 days of GP time per week, full time hospital in-reach nurse - to support homeless people who attend Emergency Department or are admitted to hospital, additional 2.5 days per week of homeless outreach nurse, additional 1 day per week of senior homeless outreach nurse to lead the service, half a day per week of dental care, half a day  per week of podiatry, additional 2.5 days per week of admin support for homeless nursing team as well as peer support (people with lived experience of homelessness).
  2. To access the report on improving access to health and social care services for people who are homeless is available on our website.
  3. The ‘Health and homelessness conference’ in Belfast in November 2018 will bring together front line staff, key policy makers and experts from services elsewhere in UK and Ireland, to inform future homeless healthcare services in NI. Further information about the Homelessness and Health Symposium taking place on Friday 16 November being organised by Queen’s University Belfast, The Public Health Agency and the Department of Health can be found on Eventbrite.
  4. For media enquiries please contact the Department of Health Press Office team on 028 90 520575 or email For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110 and your call will be returned.
  5. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt

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