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NHS in Essex may rent spare rooms in local homes to tackle delayed discharges

Patients recovering from operations could be sent from hospital to nearby homes where they would be put up in a spare room while they recuperate, in a scheme being considered by NHS bodies in Essex to tackle delayed discharges.

Patients recovering from operations could be sent from hospital to nearby homes where they would be put up in a spare room while they recuperate, in a scheme being considered by NHS bodies in Essex to tackle delayed discharges.


Picture: Alamy

They are discussing a trial with a company called CareRooms, which said if a pilot scheme was agreed it would involve five to ten households that have a spare room or annex and about 30 patients over a three-month period.

The company is recruiting 'hosts' – who do not need any previous care experience – who could earn up to £50 a night for putting up patients discharged from hospital.

Bed days lost

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

And last week charity Age UK warned that increasing numbers of older and frail patients are being 'marooned' in hospital beds, despite being medically fit.

CareRooms said it will transform spare rooms with a private bathroom into 'secure care spaces for patients who are waiting to be discharged', saying it could be a practical alternative to hospitals and care homes for recuperation.

Prospective hosts, who could earn up to £1,000 a month, would need to go through security checks before being approved for the scheme.

Microwave meals

They would be required to heat up three microwave meals each day and supply drinks, and would be given training and access to a helpline.

The possible trial in Essex was first revealed by the Health Service Journal.

NHS bodies in Essex, along with local authorities, are in preliminary discussions over the project, which would involve eligible patients primarily from Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

The trial will not start until all parties are satisfied that the process is safe, CareRooms said.

Short-term

The company’s co-founder and chief medical officer Harry Thirkettle 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.’

Dr Thirkettle, who is also a part-time emergency doctor, said hosts have to go through a vetting process, including detailed interviews, and provide at least three references. In addition, everyone over 18 in the property would have to undergo a disclosure and barring service check.

Call centre

The company would operate a 24-hour call centre and a telemedicine GP service so patients would be able to have a GP consultation within four hours.

Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust managing director Yvonne Blucher said: ‘Only preliminary discussions have been held across the health and care partners in south east Essex and we have not agreed to support this project at this time. Clearly if a decision to pilot such a proposal was made we would expect all safety, quality and regulatory arrangements to be satisfied.'

A spokesperson for Southend-on-Sea borough council said: 'At this early stage the council has only agreed to continue exploring the viability of the project with other partners.

'We are 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.'


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