Representation of persons experiencing homelessness and coding of homelessness in general practices: descriptive evaluation using healthcare utilisation data

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Rishika Kaushal
  • Saval Khanal
  • Neha Vohra
  • Richard Lowrie
  • Jaspal Johal
  • Duncan Jenkins
  • Karen Saunders

Colleges, School and Institutes


Background: Epidemiological studies focused on primary healthcare needs of persons experiencing homelessness (PEH) are often based on data from specialist homeless healthcare services.

Aim: To explore the presentation of PEH, coding of homelessness, and associated health conditions in mainstream primary care general practices in England.Design & setting EMIS electronic database search of medical records was conducted across 48 general practices in a clinical commissioning group (CCG), representing one of the most socioeconomically deprived regions in England, which also lacks a specialist primary healthcare service for PEH.

Method: Key terms and codes were used to identify PEH, their respective diagnoses across 22 health conditions, and prescribed medications over the past 4 years.

Results: From a population of approximately 321 000, 43 (0.013%) people were coded as PEH, compared with a homelessness prevalence of 0.5% in the English general population. Mental health conditions were the most prevalent diagnoses among the PEH registrants (56.6%); the recorded prevalence of other common long-term conditions in PEH was lower than the levels observed in PEH registered with specialist homelessness health services.

Conclusion: In a population with approximately four times higher rate of statutory homelessness, PEH representation in mainstream general practices was under-represented by several folds. As homelessness overlaps with mental health, substance misuse, and long-term health conditions, consistent coding of homelessness in medical records is imperative in order to offer tailored support and prevention actions when patients present for services.


Original languageEnglish
JournalBJGP Open
Early online date27 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 May 2021


  • homeless persons, homelessness, primary health care, England, general practice

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