The NHS is under pressure like never before, and managers are coming up with increasingly novel ways of cutting costs and freeing up beds. One of the main issues facing the NHS is dealing with a population which is getting older and frailer, often leading to the phenomenon of bed blocking. Bed blocking happens when someone has been admitted to hospital for an operation and treatment and has recovered well enough to be discharged, but does not have the support or carers to be able to go home. This results in people being kept in hospital longer than needed while support or a care package is organised, effectively blocking a bed for more acute cases. One very novel idea was to pay members of the general public to take these people into their spare rooms, providing meals, the basics of personal care and generally just being around until the patient is well enough to live independently again. Like all new ideas though, this raises considerable questions.

How The Programme Will Work

A very small-scale trial of this scheme has already started in Essex, with a trial of 30 patients initially. These patients will be accommodated in the homes of local residents, who have either an annex or spare room with en-suite bathroom for the patient. People who are willing to take a patient into their home will be paid £50 per night, a massive saving on the estimated £400 which it costs the NHS to keep someone in a hospital bed overnight. Food will also be provided for the patient by the NHS, and hosts will simply heat this up in their microwave. Carers will be employed to come in and manage the day to day care which the patient needs, and it is envisaged that a patient will stay for a maximum of two weeks before moving home.

Safeguarding Concerns

Unsurprisingly, this new trial being run in Essex is not without its critics. Campaign groups advocating for the rights of the elderly have branded the move “risky”, given the difficulties of running DBS checks on all members of the family and other people who may be in the home on a regular basis. They also highlight the ongoing issues with abuse and poor standards of care in registered care homes, and feel that the potential for poor treatment and neglect could be even higher when a patient is isolated and alone in a stranger’s home. In response, the NHS has assured that all adults living in the property where an older person will be housed will be subject to enhanced DBS checks which will reveal not only past convictions but also cautions and other intelligence held by Police which might rule them out from this type of work. Technology could also help allay some fears about treatment of the elderly with things like motion sensors and movement operated cameras being discussed for remote monitoring of the patient as well as the carers.