Development & Alumni Relations Office 



CONFERENCE ON HOMELESSNESS AND HEALTH  

22 November 2018

Over 170 delegates have attended a ‘health and homelessness’ conference in Riddel Hall at Queen's University, to share learning and facilitate discussions on homelessness.

The event organised by Queen’s, the Department of Health and the Public Health Agency, brought together front line staff, key policymakers and experts from services elsewhere in the UK and Ireland to discuss a range of public health topics in relation to homelessness. 

Opening the conference, Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride from the Department of Health said: “Homeless people suffer extreme health inequalities and barriers in accessing mainstream healthcare.

“Last month, the Department announced a new Healthcare Hub to transform services for the homeless. This will bring services out of the clinical setting and into the community and onto the streets, to wrap care around the people who need it most, where they need it.

“Tackling issues around homelessness requires a partnership approach. Events like this help facilitate the sharing of best practice and are vital in helping to inform future healthcare services in Northern Ireland.”

Dr Nigel Hart, a GP and Senior Lecturer in the School of Medicine at Queen’s, said: “As educators of the next generation of doctors and health professionals we have a duty to confront stigma and nurture compassion towards the most marginalised and vulnerable in our society.

“Today’s event will help us to focus on that goal and to identify how our education courses can better prepare our students to meet the needs of those who find themselves homeless.”  

According to the London-based Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) there is widespread evidence from across the world of the negative impact of homelessness on health. When comparing homeless people with the rest of the population, they are approximately:

  • 50 times more likely to have Hepatitis C
  • 34 times more likely to have Tuberculosis
  • 20 times more likely to die from drugs
  • 9 times more likely to commit suicide
  • 8 times more likely to have epilepsy
  • 4 times more likely to have a mental health problem

A number of workshops ran throughout the day covering a range of public health topics in relation to homelessness, when keynote speakers included:

Dr Nigel Hewett, OBE, Medical Director Pathway – England’s leading charity for homelessness healthcare – and Secretary to the Faculty of Homeless and Inclusion Health, presented on approaches that have been tried and tested in England, and proven to make a difference.

Dr Austin O’Carroll, Programme Director, North Dublin Training Scheme who is from Safetynet – a medical charity that delivers care to homeless people and Dr Clíona Ní Cheallaigh, Senior Lecturer in Medical Gerontology and Consultant in General Medicine and Infectious Diseases in St James’s Hospital Dublin, shared with delegates the extent of homelessness and the approaches taken in Dublin.

Ms Susan Semple, homeless healthcare co-ordinator from Belfast Health & Social Care Trust, was also a keynote speaker.

Dr Stephen Bergin, Acting Assistant Director Screening and Professional Standard at the Public Health Agency said: “The Public Health Agency is very grateful to all the speakers and workshop facilitators, both from Northern Ireland and from further afield, who have shared their knowledge and experience at this symposium. 

“They have helped further the collaborative working which is essential to improving outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.”

Any medical queries arising as a result of this news story should be discussed with your GP/consultant and not DARO staff.

Media enquiries to Sian Devlin at Queen’s Communications Office on tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5292.

Caption (L-R): Professor Ian Greer, President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast, Maureen McCartney (Project Manager Homelessness Services), Dr Michael McBride (Chief Medical Officer), Dr Stephen Bergin (Acting Assistant Director, Screening and Professional Standard at Public Health Agency)

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