The NHS is trying to solve the problem of “bed blocking” by discharging elderly patients and paying homeowners £50 a night to let them stay in a spare bedroom. Is this a shocking disregard for welfare or an innovative use of the sharing economy?


Get your care home, Airbnb-style.
An innovative scheme to solve NHS bed blocking.
Moving patients into your spare room.

Hi, I’m Leon Hawthorne. The NHS is planning to solve the problem of bed blocking by renting rooms from private landlords.

They’ll be paying homeowners £50 a night to take in elderly patients who are medically fit, but unable to take care of themselves, perhaps due to reduced mobility.

This is the problem of so called ‘bed blocking’ – the official name is “delayed discharges” – where the social care system doesn’t have enough money or space to take these elderly people, so they lay in hospital, preventing a bed being used by someone who actually needs it.

Every year in England, 850,000 NHS bed-days are blocked in this way. It’s one reason for long waits in Accident and Emergency, because doctors cannot find the beds for urgent cases.

CareRooms, which is a private company, has a website canvassing for ‘hosts’ in Essex. They’ll undergo a criminal background check, first, but they don’t need any medical qualifications… after all, the tenants are not sick.

Why not? These elderly people don’t need a doctor or nurse 24/7. Just someone maybe to draw the curtains and let in the meals on wheels-like service that will bring food to the door.

Hospitals are not the best places to be at any time. They are impersonal, with no privacy and it’s very easy to pick up an infection.

At £50 a night, this scheme’s not exactly going to attract people looking to get rich quick. It’s likely to appeal to many, well-meaning people in our society who want to help others; and have a spare room.

The scheme is to be piloted by Southend University Hospital Trust. It was reported to have backed out of the pilot following negative headlines and criticism from Labour MPs, who called it ‘care on the cheap’ and a danger to patient safety.

But the Trust told me its position is unchanged. The pilot is just not yet ready to launch.

I think the idea is wonderful. It leverages the sharing economy, developed by companies like Airbnb and Uber, and applies it to doing social good, while saving the taxpayers a lot of money.

I’m Leon Hawthorne. Thanks for watching.

Published by videobite2021

Journalist, broadcaster, media executive, academic, author.