Concern as NHS trials Airbnb-style home care scheme

Essex trusts to pay homeowners to house recovering patients in their spare rooms

Under the scheme, patients who have undergone minor procedures and are fit for discharge, but have no support at home, will move into a homeowner's spare room where they will receive support until they are well enough to go home

Widespread concern is being voiced after the NHS revealed it is piloting an Airbnb-style scheme to ‘host’ patients in residents’ spare rooms in a bid to combat bedblocking.

Under the proposals, which have been widely condemned by patient groups, homeowners will be offered up to £1,000 to give a bed to a patient who may have had a minor procedure and is medically fit to leave hospital, but who lives alone or has no family to help them convalesce.

We are really carefully considering this and making sure it is as safe as possible

Hosts are asked to ‘welcome the patient, cook three microwave meals a day, and offer conversation,’ a Health Service Journal (HSJ) report has revealed.

The scheme is being piloted by start-up company, Carerooms, which is working with NHS trusts and councils in Essex to put together a list of willing homeowners with rooms to spare.

CareRooms said the model provides ‘a safe, comfortable place for people to recuperate from hospital’ as well as helping to alleviate bed-blocking, which has risen by 40% in the past year and is estimated to cause up to 8,000 deaths annually.

On some days, 6,000 patients are taking up beds across the NHS when they no longer require hospital treatment.

However, the Save Southend A&E campaign group, whose members include doctors in Essex, warned the new scheme had the potential to ‘open a huge can of worms.’

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services also said it ‘raised questions’ about the wellbeing and safety of patients and the Care Quality Commission said it would be contacting the company to see if the service falls under the ‘scope of regulation’.

Although CareRooms promises to undertake an initial vetting and interview procedure; the company states that no previous care experience or medical training is needed.

Hosts, however, do have the option of attending training to become a carer for their patient if they are ‘interested in increasing your skills and income’.

Hosts will be subject to Disclosure and Barring Service checks and will be required to complete training to ensure understanding of the Mental Capacity Act, food hygiene and cleanliness standards.

CareRooms medical director Harry Thirkettle, a part-time emergency registrar in Essex, told the HSJ: “Everyone’s immediate concern is, understandably, safeguarding. We are working hard to be better than standard practice.

“We are not going off half-cocked. We are not going to start taking on patients until we have satisfied all these different organisations’ governance procedures and committees. We are really carefully considering this and making sure it is as safe as possible.”

However, Save Southend A&E campaign said flyers had already been handed out at Southend Hospital.

Offering beds in private residential homes opens a huge can of worms for safeguarding, governance and possible financial and emotional abuse of people at their most-vulnerable time

“We are shocked that an NHS trust is endorsing such a company,” said a spokesman.

“Offering beds in private residential homes opens a huge can of worms for safeguarding, governance and possible financial and emotional abuse of people at their most-vulnerable time.

“It is almost weekly that there are reports of abuse and poor care in registered residential and care homes. Therefore, the monitoring of such ‘placements’ in private homes would be a huge and risky task.”

The pilot involves Southend University Hospital Foundation Trust; Southend and Castlepoint, Rayleigh and Rochford clinical commissioning groups; Essex County Council; and Southend Borough Council.

Southend Hospital managing director, Yvonne Blücher, said CareRooms was one of several ‘innovative solutions’ being explored in Essex.

“The CareRooms principle is to provide additional support to those patients who may have had a minor procedure and live alone or whose own families are not able to provide short-term assistance post hospital care,” she said.

“A number of patient cohorts are currently being assessed to identify opportunities that may exist with our system.”

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