Trust disowns scheme putting patients in ‘Airbnb style’ local homes – for now!

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The plan to discharge inpatients to care of local residents with spare rooms at £50 a day has been put on hold following an outcry from campaigners, press and politicians.

The HSJ today (26 October) reports as follows:

The trust [Southend University Hospital] involved in a controversial plan to send discharged patients to private spare rooms, under an Airbnb style model, has now said it has “no intention… to support the pilot at this time”

The new NHS-funded scheme had planned to pay a private ‘Air bnb-style’ company to cut costs of accommodating hospital patients. The Save Southend NHS campaign group yesterday raised serious concerns, reported in Health Service Journal, about a new privately-run enterprise called CareRooms – an Airbnb-style company which places discharged NHS patients in people’s spare rooms.

Through CareRooms, the NHS would have paid private home owners ‘with no care experience’ up to £1000 per month to host patients who still require some medical support and would normally be in a hospital setting for the rest of their recovery or awaiting a place in an intermediate care or residential facility.

The supposed aim is to reduce the number of patients remaining in hospital, or other care settings, for the duration of their recovery. As a result, potentially vulnerable people would have ended up in unsuitable accommodation, being cared for people who have little training. The scheme also doesn’t appear to be regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The Save Southend NHS campaign discovered that this cost-cutting scheme was to be be piloted in the Southend area as part of the Mid and South Essex STP (or ‘Success Regime’), and promoted by the Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – with leaflets being handed out to patients and visitors in public areas of the hospital.

While we accept that there is a national crisis with delayed transfers of care’ (DTOCs) as a result of chronic cuts to social care funding, the Save Southend NHS campaign is seriously concerned that this is a dangerous, unregulated scheme which could have left vulnerable people – who should be in a care setting appropriate to their needs, and being cared for by trained professionals – without the care they really need, all in the name of releasing beds.

A spokesperson for the Save Southend NHS Campaign said:

“The risky and unregulated private CareRooms scheme opens a huge can of worms for safeguarding, governance and possible financial and emotional abuse of people at their most vulnerable time. While we accept that there are issues with delayed transfers of care due to chronic social care cuts and underfunding, we do not accept that this is in the best interest of recovering patients in the Southend and Essex area. In our view, there is no room for unregulated, unprofessional airBnB-style care in our NHS.”

CareRooms company is advised by former NHS England Director Mike Bewick – who co-incidentally is also the Independent Chair of the Mid and South Essex Success STP. This is just another example of our local STP attempting to cut costs at the expense of people’s care.

Chair of the Commons Health Select Committee, Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes raised her concerns on Twitter today (26 October) in response to coverage in The Guardian – see here

Watch this one!

Campaigners can claim with pride to have contributed to the temporary abandonment of this ill-thought out scheme, with its huge inherent dangers. But beware: today Government minister, Lord O’Shaughnessy in the Lords, Tom Abell, Southend Trust spokesperson and CareHomes Ltd all have failed to rule out use of this scheme ‘after further scoping’.

There is no short cut solution created by paying a private company for beds in spare rooms in private residencies: 15,000 beds have been lost since 2010. We need the restoration of fully funded NHS and social care and the removal of the wasteful private sector, looking for ‘opportunities’ not for patients but for themselves.

[This post has been updated]

Notes to editors

  1. Find out more about CareRooms here
  2. About the Save Southend NHS Campaign: We are a resident run and non-party political group of campaigners who welcome anyone in the community to join our fight to save our local NHS services and campaign against cuts from the Mid and South Essex STP (Success Regime).
  3. For more information, contact [email protected] or telephone Secretary Mike Fieldhouse 07721685376


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