This project had two aims: to gain an understanding of the profile and expressed needs of people seen by the Homeless Emergency Department Liaison Officer in the emergency department in comparison to general hospital presentations, and to explore the potential role for occupational therapy to respond to this population.
The Emergency Department Information Systems database and Homeless Emergency Department Liaison Officer files were examined to gather data on all individuals who presented to the hospital emergency department over a 16-month period. The viability of a discipline-specific role to respond to this population was then considered by senior occupational therapists.
The results revealed that the majority of homeless people seen were male and in the early middle age group, with more than half arriving at the emergency department by way of ambulance services. The most common reasons for presentation were medical, mental health and drug- and alcohol-related issues.
It was found that a large percentage of people seen in the emergency department were discharged back to the streets. Senior occupational therapists have the potential to provide brief assessments and interventions that could reduce the ongoing demand on emergency department resources by people who are homeless.