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Do emergency department attendances by homeless people increase in cold weather?
  1. Alexander J Brown1,
  2. Steve W Goodacre1,
  3. Sue Cross2
  1. 1School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  2. 2Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Steve Goodacre, Medical Care Research Unit, Regent Court, 30 Regent Street, Sheffield S1 4DA, UK; s.goodacre{at}


Background Little is known about how and when homeless people use the emergency department. It might be anticipated that attendances would increase in cold weather as homeless people seek possible shelter. The authors aimed to describe emergency department attendances by homeless people and determine whether ambient temperatures affect attendance rates.

Methods The authors undertook a retrospective study of routine data from the Northern General Hospital Emergency Department and Weston Park Weather Station from 2003 to 2008.

Results There were 528 573 emergency department attendances between 2003 and 2008, including 2930 by homeless people (5.5 per 1000 attendances). Total attendances increased steadily over the study period, while attendances by homeless people peaked in 2005 and 2006. Attendances by homeless people were more frequent in the evening and at night, and a relatively high proportion (17.4%) left without being seen. There was a small positive correlation between daily attendances by homeless people and minimum (r=0.061, p=0.004) or maximum (r=0.049, p=0.022) daily temperature.

Conclusion We found no evidence to suggest that homeless people are more likely to attend the emergency department in cold weather. If anything, there was a small positive correlation between rate of attendances and daily temperature.

  • Emergency department
  • hospital
  • homeless
  • health service use
  • epidemiology
  • nursing

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.