Saturday 26 May 2018

NHS to trial Airbnb-style stays in people's spare rooms

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Ella Pickover

NHS patients recuperating after a hospital stay may soon be put up in Airbnb-style accommodation in people’s homes to ease the burden on hospital wards running at capacity.

A pilot scheme will see around 30 patients waiting for discharge from hospital care stay with local residents who have a spare room or annex.

CareRooms is recruiting “hosts” – who do not need any previous care experience – in Essex. They could earn up to £50 (€56) a night putting up people recuperating from a hospital stay.

The company said it will transform spare rooms and annexes with a private bathroom into “secure care spaces for patients who are waiting to be discharged”.

Prospective hosts, who can earn up to a maximum of £1,000 (€1122) a month, need to go through security checks before they are approved for the scheme. They are required to heat up three microwave meals each day and supply drinks and are offered “host protection” as well as a helpline and training.

The company’s website said it aims to “provide patients with a practical alternative to hospitals and care homes to recuperate in”.

It adds: “Our hospitals are becoming increasingly full with patients who have nowhere to go, your spare room and bathroom can be safely converted to allow patients to be discharged for a maximum of two weeks, for remote carers to look after them and for minimal impact and risk to your daily life.”

The news comes amid the crisis of delayed discharges in hospitals.

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

NHS figures show that last year, 2.2 million hospital “bed days” in England were lost due to delayed transfers of care. The proposed trial will take place in Essex. It was first revealed by the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

NHS bodies in the county, along with local authorities, are in preliminary discussions over the project – which would see willing and eligible patients primarily recruited from Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. CareRooms said the “micro pilot” would involve just five to 10 hosts over a three-month period.

The trial will not start until all parties are assured that the process is “safe or safer than standard practice”, it said.

Dr Harry Thirkettle, co-founder and chief medical officer for the website, said that around 30 patients would be involved.

He said: “What we’re aiming towards is patients who just need short-term accommodating either before going home or going into long-term care. We are looking to find patients who are medically fit for discharge, who don’t have any cognitive impairments.

“The reason they would come to us is because they either live alone and don’t have support or they have mobility issues. So you can imagine someone who had a leg fracture and is unable to go up and down their stairs, so until that fracture is healed they could come to us and stay in ground-floor accommodation.

“The aim is to match the right patient to the right room.”

He said that some people may find the scheme preferable to staying in hospital.

“There is good evidence out there about the effects of long-term hospitalisation on people – they lose muscle strength and mass, it impairs their cognition,” he said. “We hope that by allowing people to be discharged to a home-like environment, quicker, that would give massive benefits for patients.”

But some raised concerns over the pilot.

Campaign group Save Southend A&E told the HSJ: “We are shocked that an NHS trust is endorsing such a company ... 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.”

Dr Thirkettle, who is also a part-time A&E doctor, said that hosts have to go through a “vigorous” vetting process including a number of detailed interviews, providing at least three references and everyone over 18 in the property would have to undergo a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check.

“On the host side we have a really vigorous vetting process that they have to go through,” he said. “We also have some technology safeguarding solutions as well – we will have sensors which are able to detect any time someone has been in or out of the room.

“We will have a 24-hour call centre, we also have a telemedicine GP service so all of the people in our rooms will be able to get a GP consultation within four hours.”

He said the scheme is still in “scoping phase” adding: “We are not starting until each one of those organisations is confident that this is safe or safer than standard practice.”

The website states that patients will be offered: catering, a GP service, “premium entertainment”, specialist beds, “fall detection”, patient safety monitoring, rehabilitation packages, a private bathroom, door sensors and “CQC-certified care”.

The scheme was helped by NHS England’s Clinical Entrepreneur programme which helps frontline doctors realise ideas and develop their entrepreneurial aspirations.

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