Provision and accessibility of primary healthcare services for people who are homeless: a qualitative study of patient perspectives in the UK

Ellie Gunner, Sat Kartar Chandan, Sarah Marwick, Karen Saunders, Sarah Burwood, Asma Yahyouche, Vibhu Paudyal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Anecdotal reports of people who are homeless being denied access and facing negative experiences of primary health care have often emerged. However, there is a dearth of research exploring this population's views and experiences of such services.

AIM: To explore the perspectives of individuals who are homeless on the provision and accessibility of primary healthcare services.

DESIGN AND SETTING: A qualitative study with individuals who are homeless recruited from three homeless shelters and a specialist primary healthcare centre for the homeless in the West Midlands, England.

METHOD: Semi-structured interviews were audiorecorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed using a thematic framework approach. The Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF) was used to map the identified barriers in framework analysis.

RESULTS: A total of 22 people who were homeless were recruited. Although some participants described facing no barriers, accounts of being denied registration at general practices and being discharged from hospital onto the streets with no access or referral to primary care providers were described. Services offering support to those with substance misuse issues and mental health problems were deemed to be excluding those with the greatest need. A participant described committing crimes with the intention of going to prison to access health care. High satisfaction was expressed by participants about their experiences at the specialist primary healthcare centre for people who are homeless (SPHCPH).

CONCLUSION: Participants perceived inequality in access, and mostly faced negative experiences, in their use of mainstream services. Changes are imperative to facilitate access to primary health care, improve patient experiences of mainstream services, and to share best practices identified by participants at the SPHCPH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E526-E536
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number685
Early online date15 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

© British Journal of General Practice 2019.


  • health services accessibility
  • homeless persons
  • primary care


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