Controversial plans to offer homeowners up to £1,000 a month if they rent their spare rooms to the NHS in an Airbnb-style model have been scrapped.
The trust involved in the heavily criticised scheme has now said it has ‘no intention’ to support the pilot trial, which would see patients discharged into private homes.
It was devised as a radical way to free up hospital beds, as bed-blocking rates remain high amid the NHS’ preparations for another heavy winter.
Southend Hospital University Foundation Trust had previously been onboard with the scheme, devised by CareRooms – a start-up company.
But since the proposed plans were slammed by concerned critics yesterday, it has backed down and said there never has been any intention for such a scheme.
However, the Carerooms website is still allowing new registrations from those keen to sign up as hosts for a tidy extra income.
The plans asked for adults who signed up to cook three microwave meals for their patient each day, provide them with drinks and ‘offer conversation’.
The controversial plans are being funded by the NHS and councils, but patients may be able to pay CareRooms, the start-up company behind the plan, directly in future
Tom Abell, deputy chief executive of the trust, said in a statement today: ‘While we welcome and encourage new ideas and innovation, there is no intention and there never has been for the hospital to support this pilot at this time.
‘We will never compromise the safety and quality of care for patients and we will not support this pilot until the necessary safeguarding and quality arrangements are in place.’
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.’
The plans, uncovered by the Health Service Journal, didn’t require homeowners to have any prior care experience before housing their guest, but they are offered the opportunity to seek such training if desired.
The controversial scheme, believed to have been the first of its kind in the UK, would created ‘a safe, comfortable place for people to recuperate from hospital’.
It is expected to alleviate chronic bed shortages and stop delayed transfers of care, which are behind the worst bedblocking rates ever recorded by the NHS.
Angry campaigners were concerned that the plans, distributed by flyers in hospital canteens, would ‘open a huge can of worms’.
They also warned it is being advertised as money making venture for hosts, rather than emphasising care.
Each room will cost around £100 a night, with half going to the host. CareRooms would pocket the remainder, once care services had been paid for
Who is funding the plans?
The controversial plans would have been funded by the NHS and councils, but patients may be able to pay Carerooms directly in future.
Each room will cost around £100 a night, with half going to the host. CareRooms would pocket the remainder, once care services had been paid for.
The pilot would also have involved: Southend and Castlepoint, Rayleigh and Rochford CCGs; Essex County Council; and Southend Borough Council.
CareRooms warned that all homeowners would be vetted before they are allowed to host a patient.
Its website said host households would provide a room ‘with easy access to a private bathroom’, to help those recently discharged from hospital.
Who would be sent to the private homes?
Patients who had a minor procedure and lived alone would have been the ones sent to the private homes, and those whose family can’t provide sufficient care.
A company spokeswoman agreed the model was comparable to Airbnb – the website that allows people to rent out their spare rooms and properties.
It said hosts don’t need any previous care experience because any professional care would be provided by existing services.
It is expected to alleviate chronic bed shortages and stop delayed transfers of care, which are behind the worst bedblocking rates ever recorded by the NHS
The Save Southend A&E group warned the plans could scupper safeguarding procedures, and lead to financial abuse of people at their most vulnerable time.
REVEALED: WHAT WAS THE SCHEME?
WHO WOULD PAY?
The controversial plans would have been funded by the NHS and councils, but patients may be able to pay CareRooms, the start-up company behind the plan, directly in future.
Each room would have cost around £100 a night, with half going to the host. CareRooms would pocket the remainder, once care services had been paid for.
WHO WOULD BE INVOLVED?
The pilot involved: Southend University Hospital Foundation Trust; Southend and Castlepoint, Rayleigh and Rochford CCGs; Essex County Council; and Southend Borough Council.
WHAT DID YOU HAVE TO DO?
In return, those who sign up would be asked to cook three microwave meals for their patient each day (which is delivered straight to their door), provide them with drinks and ‘offer conversation’.
Homeowners wouldn’t be required to have any prior care experience before housing their guest, but they would be offered the opportunity to seek such training if desired.
It argued that the company was pitching itself as a money making venture for hosts, advertising opportunities to earn £1,000 a month, rather than emphasising care.
The campaign group, which consists of local residents and clinicians, added: ‘We are shocked that an NHS trust is endorsing such a company.’
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, a charity that aims to improve social care across the UK, also raised concerns.
It said ‘the model of care, as described, raises questions about whether the safety and wellbeing of the individual have been fully considered’.
CareRooms claimed only patients ‘medically fit for discharge’ would be given the opportunity to stay with a host.
Harry Thirkettle, the company’s medical director, said yesterday the scheme would adopt quality standards that are better than ‘standard practice’.
He said: ‘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 really carefully considering this and making sure it is as safe as possible.’
Mr Thirkettle added that they wouldn’t begin to take on patients until they had satisfied the five organisations involved in the plans.
The pilot scheme, under consideration by NHS trusts and councils in Essex, could see adults without any care experience looking after newly released patients (England rugby world cup winner Lewis Moody’s Victorian, four-bedroom family home in Bradford-on-Avon, has previously been listed on the holiday accommodation site Airbnb)
He said hosts would face robust checks involving interviews, food hygiene training and cleanliness standards.
Mr Thirkettle said: ‘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.’
Southend Hospital managing director Yvonne Blücher said CareRooms was one of several ‘innovative solutions’ being explored in Essex.
The CQC said yesterday it was unsure whether CareRooms would fall within its ‘scope of regulation’ – but will investigate further.
BED-BLOCKING: THE CRISIS
The scale of bed-blocking in the NHS is the worst it has ever been, with nearly 4,500 people trapped in hospital at any given time.
The problem has more than doubled in the past seven years – from 55,332 beds that were blocked for a whole day in August 2010 to 118,131 in July 2017.
Experts claim the numbers are being driven by a crisis in social care, with patients who could leave stuck in hospital because there is no suitable nursing accommodation available for them in the community.
Up to 8,000 people die every year because of bed-blocking on NHS wards, researchers said earlier this month.
The toll is the result of so-called delayed discharges, in which there are no beds for those who need surgery because patients who have been treated and are medically fit to go home cannot leave hospital.
This leads to the cancellation of operations, which may not be rescheduled for weeks. Research by experts at the universities of Oxford, Liverpool, York and Glasgow suggests this may lead to thousands of deaths.
Using NHS figures from August 2010 to March 2016, the team found that when delayed discharges rose sharply between 2014 and 2015 the number of deaths in the wider population soared as well.