The NHS is trialling a scheme that could see patients recovering from surgery in people’s spare rooms, rather than hospital beds.
As first reported in Health Service Journal (HSJ), a company called CareRooms is working with NHS England and councils in Essex to finalise details of a trial.
The company says those taking part could earn up to £1,000 a month, with hosts expected to provide three meals a day, which would be delivered and require heating up, and offer conversation “where appropriate”. Patients would be those recovering from minor surgical procedures who don’t have anyone to care for them at home, and stays would be a maximum of two weeks.
The scheme is designed to combat the rise in ‘bed-blocking’, where patients are ready to be discharged, but there are significant delays organising care for them out of hospital, meaning the bed they’re in can’t be used for incoming patients.
Hosts with no prior experience in caring are promised “up to £50 per night” with the potential to “increase this income further” by undergoing training to become a carer. But some are concerned that the financial incentive is being prioritised over care.
In an Instagram post on 23 September appearing to be from a CareRooms account, a further financial incentive was offered to sign up, promising £50 to the first three hosts to complete the registration process.
The company describes people’s spare rooms and annexes as being transformed into “secure care spaces” and being “fitted with all the latest equipment to make your stay safe and comfortable”, including a 24-7 care line.
According to The Telegraph, a company spokesperson compared the scheme to Airbnb.
But some have expressed concerns that it could expose patients to potential abuse, and compromise safety by asking untrained people to monitor patients.
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The Save Southend A&E campaign group said the scheme “opens a huge can of worms for safeguarding, governance and possible financial and emotional abuse of people at their most vulnerable time”.
However, CareRooms medical director Harry Thirkettle has said the company’s priority is “safeguarding” and that they will endeavour to make the service “as safe as possible”.
The website states: “CareRooms is a company focused on leveraging the rise of the sharing economy to solve some of the biggest problems in global healthcare.
“We have a team of highly experienced professionals from across international healthcare systems plus youthful talent and energy and together we are going to crowd source what’s known as ‘intermediate care’, allowing hospital patients to recover in comfort, closer to home, to tackle the problem of social isolation for the elderly and ease the bed blocking crisis developing in hospitals and healthcare systems across the developed world.”
Up to 30 eligible patients may be recruited from Southend University Hospital for the trial, according to the BBC, while Yvonne Blücher, managing director of the hospital, said: “We would like to make it clear that only preliminary discussions have been held.”
The Guardian reports that a spokesman for Southend council said it was awaiting further information on the details: “We want to make it clear that, at this early stage, the council has only agreed to continue exploring the viability of the project with other partners.”