UK

Airbnb-Style Scheme To Free Up NHS Hospital Beds Slammed By Cross-Party MPs

There are 'clear safety risks'.

26/10/2017 11:11 BST

A scheme to free up NHS hospital beds by moving patients into Airbnb-style accommodation has been slammed by cross-party MPs.

The trial scheme poses “clear safety risks” by placing responsibility for patients with strangers, Labour’s shadow social care minister said.

A small trial is due to take place in the South East, where homeowners could earn up to £50 a night putting people up as they recuperate from a hospital stay.

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A trial scheme to free up NHS hospital beds by moving patients into Airbnb-style has been heavily criticised. File image.

Former Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb warned that any changes should be based on care needs, “not cost savings”.

Labour’s Barbara Keeley said that the pilot project was a sign that social care is in crisis.

NHS figures show that last year, 2.2 million hospital “bed days” in England were lost due to delayed transfers of care.

Meanwhile, Age UK has warned that increasing numbers of elderly and frail patients are being “marooned” in hospital beds, despite being medically fit.

Writing in the Daily Mirror, Keeley highlighted comments by health minister Jackie Doyle-Price in which she repeated a claim that austerity has been “the mother of invention”.

PA Archive/PA Images
(From left) Julian Huppert MP, Barbara Keeley MP, Crossbench Peer Tanni Grey-Thompson, Charlotte Leslie MP at 10 Downing Street in central London. 

The Labour MP wrote: “Now we have been given a terrifying view of what that might mean in practice.

“People in need of social care in Essex could be forced to stay with strangers if there’s no room in care homes. Call it CareBnB.

“The Tories’ care crisis is now so bad that private homeowners are being asked to help dig them out of it.”

A number of MPs shared their concerns of the trial scheme on social media:

The trial involving around 30 patients will take place in Essex, it was first revealed by the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

The scheme is being run by CareRooms, a company that says it will transform spare rooms and annexes with a private bathroom into “secure care spaces for patients who are waiting to be discharged”.

The firm’s co-founder and chief medical officer, Dr Harry Thirkettle, told the Press Association the scheme is aimed at patients who need short-term accommodation either before going home or going into long-term care.

He said there were “massive” benefits to be had for patients who can be discharged into home-like environments, whereas remaining in hospital can impaired mobility and cognition.

Prospective hosts, who can earn up to a maximum of £1,000 a month, need to go through “vigorous” security checks before they are approved for the scheme.

CareRooms is also using “technology safeguarding solutions” including sensors that detect any time someone enters or leaves, as well as a 24-hour call centre and patients will be able to get a GP consultation within four hours of requesting one, Dr Thirkettle said.

And concerns have been raised about the level of expertise and experience required for a host in this role:

Commenting on reports that homeowners are to be offered up to £1,000 to host an NHS patient in their homes, Lib Dem MP Lamb said: “People want an NHS and care service that has the resources to properly care for those in need – the Liberal Democrats are the only party offering the money the NHS need by increasing income tax by 1p.

“It is right to look to innovate in health services, and these pilots should be looked at carefully and must be carried out with proper checks and safeguards in place. Any changes, however, must be based on care needs, not cost savings.”

The Care Quality Commission watchdog told the Guardian that its registration team did not have a record of CareRooms, although could not say whether such a registration would be required.

“The CQC will contact CareRooms to better understand their business model in case they are providing something that would fall within the scope of our regulation ,” a spokesman said.

An NHS England spokesman said: “While it’s good to hear innovative ideas from NHS staff, this suggestion from an A&E doctor in Southend is a long way from being implemented and would first need to be very carefully assessed and tested.”