HEALTH bosses are planning to step up their efforts to help rough sleepers after the issue was branded a “national emergency”.

In the last year, public services in Bolton have provided 160 beds for people in the borough with nowhere else to go but many of these individuals are suffering from their time of the streets.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham claims tackling the issue is a priority for him after launching the A Bed Every Night programme.

However, this year’s version of the scheme will see the NHS increase its own efforts to help, providing £2m of funding along with more provision to help those sleeping rough.

Dr Tom Tasker co-chair of the Greater Manchester Joint Commissioning Team, is a GP who will be heavily involved in the scheme.

He has pointed to figures showing rough sleepers, especially women, can have their life expectancy limited to just 43 years, a statistic which would prompt a major reaction were it the result of a health condition.

“There is a national emergency here,” Dr Tasker said. “If we look at the health statistics for this group of people they are absolutely dire. So whatever we can do, whether its in general practice or with better immunisation, better access to hospital service, mental health or substance misuse.

“Whatever it might be, health services are looking to really improve the current offer that we’ve got.”

In addition to treating people after they become homeless, NHS services across Bolton are also going to be trying to keep people from going back to the streets.

When people visit health centres and have nowhere to go back to, they will be referred to places in the borough where they can stay.

Dr Tasker said: “One of the key things that we’re looking to do across the whole of Greater Manchester is that no person in a hospital bed, whether that’s acute or mental health, should be discharged back onto the streets. So if somebody is of no fixed abode then there are services in place to prevent them being discharged onto the streets after a hospital stay.”

He added: “In terms of myself as a GP, if somebody is at risk of becoming homeless then there’s an imperative on me to try and support them and stop that happening.”

Some people see living on the street as the only way out of their problems, and this can be related to a traumatic event or a mental health struggle.

Dr Tasker explained that health services will try to focus on some of these problems to get people permanently into a home.

He said: “A lot of people on the streets who have suffered traumatic life experiences earlier on are suffering a significant impact to this day.

“Trauma-focused psychological therapy is an important area for us to support people but we have to work with people in a way they want to. While the ultimate aim is to try and get people off the streets and get them into accommodation and then into permanent accommodation we need a blended offer so that everybody can get the support they need.”