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

Rishika Kaushal, Parbir Jagpal, Saval Khanal, Neha Vohra, Richard Lowrie, Jaspal Johal, Duncan Jenkins, Karen Saunders, Vibhu Paudyal

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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
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBJGP Open
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


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

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