NHS Airbnb-style scheme 'not ruled out' by minister

Southend Hospital

The idea of patients recuperating in Airbnb-style accommodation has not been ruled out, health minister Philip Dunne has said.

Southend Hospital had been considering a trial where hospital patients could be discharged to people’s spare rooms.

The hospital then distanced itself from the idea after it was criticised by politicians and health groups.

But Mr Dunne told 5 live he “wouldn’t immediately reject it – one’s got to trial different things”.

The pilot scheme proposed in Essex would have seen some 30 hospital patients staying in local residents’ spare rooms while waiting to be discharged.

As part of the trial, healthcare start-up CareRooms had said it would recruit “hosts” whose properties had spare rooms or annexes with a private bathroom.

Southend Hospital later clarified that the pilot would not be supported until certain criteria had been met.

‘New care models’

Asked by the BBC’s John Pienaar if the idea deserved a look, Conservative MP Mr Dunne said: “Well I wouldn’t rule it out.

“This is not national policy, anything innovative needs to be very carefully scrutinised and assessed before we proceed with it.

“But I wouldn’t, just as an immediate knee jerk, say that new models of care in the community are necessarily wrong.”

Mr Dunne added that the idea had involved “people who may have had minor procedures who need a bit of help”. It could also include B&B owners who were already medically trained and could offer accommodation, he said.

Labour’s shadow health minister Justin Madders called the idea a “sticking plaster”.

And Tom Abell, deputy chief executive of Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “While 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.”

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