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RCEM and homeless charities warn of health impact of removing eviction ban

21 August 2020

With the eviction ban due to end on Monday, The Royal College of Emergency Medicine is concerned at the serious impact that this could have on Emergency Departments.

As we head into winter with COVID-19 very much still present in the community, charities, medical royal colleges, and healthcare organisations have warned about a ‘wave of homelessness’ when the eviction ban is lifted. RCEM has co-signed a letter from MedAct, homeless charities, and Medical Royal Colleges to highlight the health risks likely to follow a result of the eviction crisis.

We know that housing is a social determinant of health and homeless people face extreme health inequalities. Without secure accommodation or a permanent address homeless people often end up using the Emergency Department, rather than trying to access primary care.

The President of The Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson has said: “The end of the eviction ban could have serious consequences for tens of thousands of people, as well as for our healthcare system.

“Homeless people are six times more likely to attend emergency departments than the general population, more likely to be admitted, and have longer average stays due to multiple and complex needs.

“As primary providers of healthcare to the homeless population, our staff witness the devastating consequences of homelessness. We strive to provide the best patient care to this extremely vulnerable and socially excluded group, but Emergency Departments alone cannot solve the impact of homelessness on a patient’s health.

“As the winter months approach and we begin to see a rise in attendances in our departments as we continue to treat and manage patients alongside the coronavirus, we simply cannot risk a surge in homelessness. For this reason, we are calling on the Government to extend the ban on evictions for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic to prevent tens of thousands of people slipping into homelessness. “

Alex Bax, Chief Executive of specialist homeless health charity Pathway said: “We share the deep concerns of our colleagues at RCEM about the end of the ban on evictions. International data suggests that thanks to concerted cross government action the UK has so far avoided large-scale COVID-19 outbreaks among its homeless population, but also that homeless populations are highly vulnerable to Covid19. Ending the ban on evictions looks set to increase both infections risks and pressure on health services just when we don’t need it.”

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis said: “Government action at the start of the pandemic to suspend evictions has prevented tens of thousands of people from being swept into homelessness. It is now extremely worrying that in a matter of days this could all be undone when the eviction ban comes to an end.

“With the economic impact of coronavirus taking its toll, too many people are left struggling to pay rent having lost their job or having had their hours cut. They risk ending up on the streets if the government does not act now. This would have a serious impact on every aspect of our society, the health service being one of them.

“It’s absolutely crucial that the Westminster government introduces emergency legislation to protect renters from eviction and to guarantee everyone experiencing homelessness with temporary accommodation during this ongoing public health crisis.”

You can read RCEM’s briefing on homelessness and Emergency Departments here.

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