BACKGROUND: Emergency departments (EDs) are an important point of access to health care for people experiencing homelessness. Evidence suggests that ED attendances by homeless people are more likely to result in leaving the ED without treatment, or dying in the ED. We investigate which diagnoses and patterns of health care use are associated with these (and other) discharge destinations and re-attendance within 7 days among homeless patients.
METHODS: We used national hospital data to analyze attendances of all 109 254 people experiencing homelessness who presented at any Type 1 ED in England over 2013-18. We used logistic regression to estimate the association of each outcome with primary diagnosis and patterns of healthcare use.
RESULTS: Compared with patients with no past ED use, patients with a high frequency of past ED use were more likely to leave without treatment and re-attend within 7 days. Patients not registered at a general practice were likelier to leave without treatment or die in the ED and had lower odds of unplanned re-attendance. A primary diagnosis of 'social problems' was associated with being discharged without follow-up. Patients with a psychiatric primary diagnosis were disproportionately likely to be referred to another health care professional/provider or an outpatient clinic.
CONCLUSIONS: Further research is needed to understand why some homeless patients leave the ED without treatment and whether their healthcare needs are being met. Some patients may be attending the ED frequently due to poor access to other services, such as primary care and social welfare.
- emergency department