THE number of homeless people admitted to hospital and A&E departments in North Yorkshire has risen by more than a quarter in the last five years.

Figures released by the British Medical Association (BMA) looked at recorded admissions to hospitals under the York NHS Teaching Hospitals Trust - which operates York, Selby, Scarborough and Bridlington Hospitals, as well as smaller local units.

They showed that in 2017/2018 there were 515 admissions to A&E - between York and Scarborough Hospitals - up 25 per cent on the previous year.

Figures also showed the number of people of no fixed abode who were admitted to hospital had increased steadily since 2013/2014, from 83 to 115 - an increase of more than 38 per cent.

Dr Peter English, of the BMA, said: “If this was some disease causing all these problems it would be a much higher priority but because victims can be blamed and stigmatised it is easy for Government to ignore.

“The growing numbers of rough sleepers and vulnerably housed people in our society is a continuing tragedy.

“To stand by silently as our NHS faces increasing strain and our society becomes increasingly unequal would be unacceptable.”

Lisa Price, co-founder of HOPING Street Kitchen, which helps the homeless in York, said while the figures showed a large increase, there were likely even more rough sleepers who had not sought medical help.

She said: “A few of the service users that have epilepsy don’t go to A&E as they feel they will recover on their own.

“A lot don’t go to A&E as they’re known to be homeless and feel they can’t access help from there.

“We as volunteers need to be able to know where they can go to access help, but to be honest a lot don’t want it or have tried and gave up seeking help.

“Homeless patients are suffering from a series of increasingly complex physical and mental health conditions, and once homeless, slip out of ‘the system’.

“They find it hard then to trust agencies that let them down in the first place and are less inclined to engage with the authorities again.

“We have found that as volunteers, we are breaking down some walls, regaining trust.”

Lisa said each visit to A&E “is estimated to cost the NHS about £148”, and one day spent in a hospital bed costs “around £400”, but in her experience “when a homeless person arrives in A&E they are dealt with and discharged, it’s very rare they are kept in overnight”.

She said: “The reality is that the true cost to the UK’s hospitals and the NHS will be much, much higher.

“The NHS also has notoriously poor recording mechanisms for homeless patients.

“Most simply fall through the cracks, or are recorded as having an address: a GP surgery, a night shelter, a housing aid centre or a friend’s house.”

Nationally, the same figures have trebled since 2011.

Homelessness in York hit the headlines earlier this year when The Press revealed more than a quarter of all homeless deaths in Yorkshire and Humberside in 2017 happened in the city.

City of York Council is looking at a report into the issue next week.

Lisa said it was important for the public to see past the statistics.

She said: “People don’t see them as part of the community, they don’t see them as people.

“Everyone has had a previous life before coming here, and very interesting ones.”

See also: Top York chef steps in to help feed the city's homeless.