County council to explore merits of scheme which could see people paid to put up NHS patients

Cambridgeshire County Council is set to mull the plans.

Cambridgeshire County Council is set to mull the plans. - Credit: Archant

A plan to pay families to provide accommodation for NHS patients who have been discharged from hospital is being considered by the local authority - despite widespread criticism of the scheme.

The CareRooms initiative, which proposes to pay people, with no formal medical qualifications or care experience, £50 per night, was launched in Essex in October, but aborted after a few weeks due to concerns about safeguarding.

Cambridgeshire County Council has been approached by CareRooms chief executive, Paul Gaudin, and confirmed it is now considering a trial of the “innovative” scheme, which includes digital monitoring for patients and GP access.

Mr Gaudin has explained that host families would be expected to offer a “warm welcome and a hot meal” and would not be expected to take on a caring role.

But critics of the scheme argue that as most of the patients will be elderly people who are blocking medical beds in hospitals while they wait for care packages to be put in place, they will inevitably need some level of professional care.

“If a hospital patient needs convalescence or help to enable them to cope when they come home, their recovery will be far quicker and less stressful, if they are in their own home with support from trained carers,” said Jane Howell, from the Keep Our NHS Public campaign group.

“If a patient is confused either due to the procedure they have just had, or perhaps dementia – an intermediate stay in an unfamiliar place before returning home could increase their confusion.

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“Also it would be very isolating to be moved from a busy hospital ward to a single room in a stranger’s house and face the prospect of having to use technology to speak to a GP,” she added.

The county council says it is committed to delivering a broad range of services and confirmed it has held “initial discussions” with Mr Gaudin.

A spokesman for the authority said: “We have had initial discussions with Mr Gaudin about his ideas of delivering home-based services, as an alternative to traditional short-term institutional settings, such as care homes or hospitals.

“It is early days, and the council is interested in exploring a range of approaches in terms of the most effective way to promote independent living in the community.

“The proposed model at this stage does interest the council, as it has a number of potential uses to support people with long-term conditions.

“A key feature of CareRooms is maximising the use of technology to monitor the health and wellbeing of individuals.

“The model is at an early stage of development, and the council has been keen to support its further development through providing some specialist staff as an advisory group to Mr Gaudin and his colleagues.

“We will be inviting NHS colleagues along to this group to see if they are interested in participating in an advisory capacity.”

Mrs Howell also raised concerns about the regulation of the scheme.

“How will people be assessed and guaranteed as being suitable and trustworthy for this role?” she said.

“Obviously they must have people skills and be able to communicate and relate well with hospital patients who maybe feeling vulnerable and quite unwell.

“What happens if one of their guests dies? The money which would be squandered on this experiment which still has serious patient safeguarding issues should be invested in better community care.”