The Tories are set to pilot an ‘Airbnb-type’ scheme that would see untrained members of the public paid up to £1000 to rent out their spare rooms or ‘granny annexes’ to host NHS patients who are recovering from surgery.

This is not satire. Seriously.

Private provider, CareRooms, is working with the NHS in Essex to finalise the scheme.

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The already widely-ridiculed idea has been drawn up in a bid to alleviate the current NHS bed shortage, and would see patients recovering from surgery left with no medically trained professionals on hand to treat them.

The CareRooms website describes the scheme by saying that:

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 maximum of 2 weeks, for remote carers to look after them and for minimal impact and risk to your daily life

CareRooms also confirm that those renting out their rooms will need no specific medical training whatsoever to look after post-surgery NHS patients, but say that all hosts must:

…cook 3 microwave meals and drinks for them each day and offer conversation where appropriate.

The ‘Save Southend A&E’ campaign group, which includes numerous healthcare professionals, has already raised significant concerns about the ‘safeguarding, governance and possible financial and emotional abuse of people at their most vulnerable time”.

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The pro-NHS campaign group said they were concerned that CareRooms were pitching itself as a money-making venture for hosts, rather than emphasising care quality.

The Save Southend NHS group said that staff from CareRooms were seen handing out flyers “offering people the chance to earn up to £1,000 a month renting out a spare room” in the public canteen of Southend Hospital, also telling The Guardian that:

We are shocked that an NHS trust is endorsing such a company … 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.

However, CareRooms Medical Director, Harry Thirkettle, defended the scheme, telling Heath Service Journal that:

 

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 not going to start taking on patients until we have satisfied all these different organisations’ governance procedures and committees. We are really carefully considering this and making sure it is as safe as possible.

Southend Council confirmed they were seriously considering the scheme, but a spokesman said they were:

awaiting further information on how the project will run and the preparation of a detailed business case before we can make any formal commitment or give support to the project.

The pilot scheme is said to involve Southend University Hospital Foundation Trust, Southend and Castlepoint, Rayleigh and Rochford Clinical Commissioning Groups, overseen by Essex County Council and Southend Council.

Although no full figures have been released regarding potential costs to the taxpayer, it has been estimated that the scheme would be substantially more expensive than simply providing extra beds in hospitals.

Added to the numerous costs of vetting hosts, customising and upgrading rooms, and providing remote carers to patients, the scheme must rank as one of the most flagrant and unashamed wastes of public money we have ever seen proposed.

And, then when you find out that the chair of the Mid and South Essex Sustainability and Transformation partnership, Mike Bewick – the former deputy medical director of NHS England – is an unpaid adviser to CareRooms, all becomes clear.

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