HEALTH professionals raised the alarm yesterday over plans for untrained members of the public to rent spare rooms to NHS patients under an Airbnb-style pilot scheme.
Medical professionals and social workers blasted plans which would see patients who have had minor procedures and are recovering from surgery stay in ordinary people’s homes rather than hospitals or care facilities. Start-up company CareRooms — part of NHS England’s clinical entrepreneur programme — has been touting for business at Southend Hospital, where it has set up a stall looking for “hosts.”
The company is taking advantage of a beds crisis in the NHS, with so-called bed-blocking having risen by 40 per cent in the last year and leading to 8,000 deaths annually. CareRooms medical director Harry Thirkettle, a part-time registrar in Essex, told the Health Service Journal (HSJ) that the company was “working hard to be better than standard practice.”
He said hosts would face robust checks and be required to undergo training in mental health along with food hygiene and cleanliness. Rooms would be rented out at around £100 per night, with half going to the host and the rest to CareRooms, which expects to make a profit from the scheme. Mr Thirkettle added: “The proposition we are working on is that it is joint-funded [by NHS organisations and councils]. We may also look to take self-funding patients who pay us directly.”
Hosts are asked to “welcome the patient, cook three microwave meals a day and offer conversation.”
Clinicians and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services have expressed concerns over issues of safeguarding, with “questions about whether the safety and wellbeing of the individual have been fully considered.” Save Southend A&E expressed alarm that CareRooms was pitching itself as a scheme for people to make money, rather than caring for patients, with the company “handing out flyers” offering £1,000 a month to rent out a spare room.
The campaign group said it was “shocked that an NHS trust is endorsing such a company.”
Concerns were raised over the involvement of Mike Bewick, who acts as an unpaid adviser to CareRooms and is also the chair of the Mid and South Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, charged with implementing NHS reforms.
The pilot scheme involves Southend University Hospital Foundation Trust, Southend and Castlepoint, Rayleigh and Rochford clinical commissioning groups, Essex County Council and Southend Borough Council.