UPDATE (26.10.2017, 13:01 BST): Southend Hospital in Essex has said it has “no intention… to support the pilot at this time”.
CareRooms, a startup looking to leverage the sharing economy to transform healthcare, has partnered with the NHS to help post-op patients recover from surgery in private homes.
The trial, which is being piloted in Essex, seeks to tackle the NHS’ bed shortages and cut spending, but has drawn criticism from healthcare professionals and social workers who argue it could burden untrained members of the public with too much responsibility.
CareRooms, co-founded by Dr Harry Thirkettle and Paul Gaudin, says patients could benefit from “a safe, comfortable place to recuperate from hospital” and in turn help the NHS.
As part of the trial, hosts would have to take in patients recovering from minor procedures, cook them three microwave meals per day and keep them company.
The trial comes amid reports of “bedblocking” rising by 42% in the NHS over the past year.
Members of the Save Southend A&E campaign group said the trial “opens a huge can of worms for safeguarding, governance and possible financial and emotional abuse of people at their most vulnerable time”.
To counteract this, CareRooms, which is part of NHS England’s clinical entrepreneur programme, argued its governance and quality screening would seek to address these concerns.
According to the startup, hosts would have to undergo an interview process and would be subject to disclosure checks and food hygiene tests. They would also undergo background and police checks and need to have an understanding of UK care law, including the Mental Capacity Act.
Thirkettle, who also works as a part-time emergency registrar, told Health Service Journal: “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.”
Financial details have not yet been finalised, but Thirkeettle said rooms could be let out to funders for about £100 per night – with the host receiving 50% of this.
The assumption, he added, would be that the programme would be partly funded by the NHS and councils.
“We may also look to take self-funding patients who pay us directly,” he added.