Intended for healthcare professionals


Deaths among homeless people rise by more than 20% in a year

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 08 October 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l5923
  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

Opiates are increasingly blamed for deaths of rough sleepers, but the health service alone cannot solve the problem, reports Elisabeth Mahase

An estimated 726 homeless people died in England and Wales last year, the largest annual increase (22%) since the Office for National Statistics began collecting this data in 2013.1

London was the worst affected area, accounting for a fifth of the deaths (148), with northwest England close behind at 14% (103). Two in five (294) of the deaths were related to drug poisoning: a 55% increase from the number in 2017. This came as a smaller increase (16%) in the number of deaths related to drug poisoning occurred in the general population.

The data showed that, as in the general population, opiates were the most frequently mentioned substance (131 mentions), with heroin or morphine most commonly cited (99 mentions). In many cases alcohol was mentioned alongside another substance (75 mentions).

The charity Crisis said that two thirds of …

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