The perceptions of homeless people regarding their healthcare needs and experiences of receiving health care

J Adv Nurs. 2015 Sep;71(9):2096-107. doi: 10.1111/jan.12675. Epub 2015 Apr 27.


Aims: To understand the perspective of the homeless about their healthcare encounters and how their experiences of receiving healthcare influence their health-seeking behaviour.

Background: A phenomenological study was undertaken because of the increasing levels of homelessness in the United Kingdom. Most of the current literature is American or Canadian.

Design: An interpretive phenomenological inquiry.

Method: An opportunistic sample of fourteen single homeless adults was recruited from one male hostel and one non-residential day centre. Data collection was done in 2013. Semi-structured audio-recorded interviews were conducted one-to-one. Colaizzi's method for data analysis was used.

Findings: Three major themes were identified. Expressed Health Need, Healthcare Experiences and Attitudes to health care. Health problems are recognized by the homeless but the need for intervention is not always prioritised. Obstacles in access to health care in the UK are both perceived (attitudes towards the homeless; previous bad experience) and actual (difficulty in registering with a general practitioner, difficulty travelling to services, being forced to move to new area). Some homeless people feel that they are treated with prejudice and receive substandard care. Positive healthcare experiences were also reported.

Conclusions: Positive and negative healthcare encounters can profoundly affect the homeless.

Recommendations: Address apparent inconsistency of care; promote greater interdisciplinary communication and referrals to homeless services from prisons and hospitals; increase the availability of intermediate services; reduce obligation of homeless to move area; research experiences of homeless families.

Keywords: healthcare; homelessnes; inconsistency; intermediate services; lived experience; nursing; perceptions; phenomenology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / standards*
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons / psychology*
  • Male