Discharge policies for homeless people and immigrants: Compromising professional ethics [2020]

Discharging a homeless patient from hospital raises ethical issues which are compounded when the patient is from outside the United Kingdom. This article begins with an extended case study of a 30-year-old homeless man from Lithuania describing his complex medical and social needs. It is best practice for all homeless patients to have their housing needs planned for prior to discharge, but this is made more difficult by the United Kingdom’s ‘hostile environment’ policy which creates a subclass of homeless people who are not eligible for support. This means healthcare professionals discharge patients back to homelessness, even when this is likely to adversely affect their health and dignity both directly and indirectly through impairing access to care for chronic conditions. Policies in health and social care which compel professionals to treat some patients with second-class care undermine the ethics of healthcare professions.

Nathan Hodson, Rose Glennerster
Nursing Ethics, May 5, 2020