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Epilepsy five times more prevalent in homeless people

11 Dec 2002

Figures suggest that homeless people are five times more likely to have epilepsy than the general population.

As part of a survey by the homeless charity Crisis, 100 homeless people in London were interviewed about their health and health needs and 5 per cent reported having epilepsy.

The report also shows that 37 per cent of homeless people are not registered with a doctor, compared to 1 per cent of the general population.

The charity says that there may be a number of reasons why homeless people find it more difficult to access a doctor:

"Surgeries are under an enormous amount of pressure and some GPs may be worried that they are ill-equipped to tackle the complex set of problems that many homeless people face. Other GPs may think that homeless people will make their patients feel uncomfortable while some may simply be unwilling to treat them.

"Many surgeries mistakenly think that homeless people need to have an address in order to register. A number of the homeless people interviewed as part of this research were turned away from medical practices because they didn’t have one. The truth, however, is that this should be no barrier to registration, as anyone who doesn’t have a home address can legitimately register by using the surgery’s address instead.

"Conditions which could easily be prevented or treated can spiral out of control before they are noticed, let alone treated, leading to a lifetime of pain and suffering or in some cases, early death."