RCM joins royal colleges and homeless charities in call for mandatory training to support homeless patients’
The Royal College of midwives has joined The Royal College of Physicians along with 5 other medical colleges and homeless charities to call on Government to urgently address the needs of homeless people .
The organisations made their call in a collective response to the government’s consultation on the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA), which includes an NHS duty to refer homeless patients to their local housing authority.
Since its implementation in 2017, it is still unclear whether the HRA’s mandate is having any real benefit. Anecdotal evidence suggests implementation is at best patchy, with most frontline staff receiving no training at all about the duty to refer.
The RCP’s call to government along with The Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Crisis, Pathway and Doctors of the World included:
- Collecting and publish actionable data on the implementation of the HRA (2017) to get a clear understanding of whether the act is working and, if it is not, what needs to change.
- Provide mandatory training resources for staff subject to the duty to refer. Such training should include:
- how to identify both homeless patients and those at risk of homelessness
- how to approach the subject with patients and gain consent
- what information to include to provide a useful referral.
- Tackling wider structural barriers, such as a lack of affordable housing options, and funding for local addiction and alcohol support services, which make it much harder for local authorities to support individuals into sustainable housing.
In March this year the RCM published new guidance for midwives on supporting pregnant women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
The guidance was launched in March at Ingleside Birth Centre in Salford by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.
The new guidance its hoped will support midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) to better spot the signs of homelessness and pregnant women who could be at risk of becoming homeless.
The guidance recommends midwives ask women about their housing situation, if they feel a woman is at risk, at least four times at certain points in their pregnancy – first appointment with the midwife, at 28 weeks, at 36 weeks and on discharge after birth.
Commenting, Clare Livingstone a Professional Policy Advisor at the RCM said;
“Homelessness is a real and growing issue; every day midwives and other health professionals working in our NHS are caring for people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. These people are among the most vulnerable in our society and we need to ensure we are collectively supporting them in the right way.
“That is why the RCM has joined with the RCP and other royal medical colleges and homeless charities to raise the issue and call on the Government to support frontline NHS workers in identifying patients at risk.
“We also need to ensure that NHS employers are supporting staff to enable them to take time off for mandatory training, too often due to staffing shortages we know midwives and other healthcare workers cannot always take time away from work for training.
“We have got to do everything we can to tackle the scourge of homelessness in our society. We know that homelessness causes problems in pregnancy and that there are potentially adverse effects for the babies of these vulnerable mothers. The RCM has published guidance for midwives and MSWs so that they can better support and help these women.”
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The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.