Hospital backs out of 'Airbnb-style plan' to ease NHS bed crisis

A plan for homeowners with spare rooms to care for recovering surgery patients has suffered a setback after a hospital linked to the trial refused to support it.

Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said it had "no intention" of supporting the 'Airbnb-style' scheme "at this time".

Healthcare start-up CareRooms has proposed a trial involving 30 hospital patients staying in local residents' spare rooms while waiting to be discharged.

The scheme, which could see homeowners earn up to a maximum of £1,000 a month, is intended to ease "bed blocking", where people who could be discharged remain in hospital because care is not available at home.

NHS figures show that last year 2.2 million hospital "bed days" in England were lost due to delayed transfers of care.

But critics raised concerns over patient safety and the Department of Health had distanced itself from the plans, calling it a "locally organised pilot scheme ... not national policy".

Labour's shadow social care minister branded the scheme "terrifying".

Writing in the Daily Mail, Barbara Keeley warned there were "clear safety risks", saying: "The Tories' care crisis is now so bad that private homeowners are being asked to help dig them out of it."

Last year 2.2 million hospital 'bed days' were lost due to delayed transfers of care Credit: ITV News

Amid the criticism Southend Hospital made its position clear on the scheme.

Tom Abell, the hospital Trust's deputy chief executive, said: "Whilst 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 and there has been full engagement and discussion with our local communities on the proposal, this will happen after a period of detailed work and scoping that we have requested."

Suggestions that the hospital would be part of the trial had provoked an angry response from campaign group Save Southend A&E, which called the news "shocking" and "risky".

Concerns over patient safety have been raised Credit: PA

CareRooms plan is to transform spare rooms and annexes with a private bathroom into "secure care spaces for patients who are waiting to be discharged".

Hosts will require no previous care experience and could earn up to £50, but will need to go through security checks before they are approved for the scheme.

They would be offered training and be required to heat up three microwave meals each day and supply drinks to the patients.

Dr Harry Thirkettle, CareRoom's co-founder and chief medical officer, has defended the scheme.

"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."

The scheme was developed with help from the NHS England's Clinical Entrepreneur programme, which helps frontline doctors realise ideas and develop their entrepreneurial aspirations, but the scheme has still to undergo testing.

An NHS England spokesman had earlier welcomed the idea but cautioned it "would first need to be very carefully assessed and tested".