The NHS is planning to pilot an 'Airbnb-type' system where untrained members of the public rent out their spare rooms to patients recovering from surgery.
The pilot scheme aims to offer an alternative to hospitals and care homes for patients who have had minimally invasive procedures.
Untrained members of the public would be paid up to £1,000 a month for renting out their spare rooms to patients recovering from surgery but the plan come under fire from healthcare professionals.
The Save Southend A&E campaign group, which includes many healthcare professionals, have raised concerns over "safeguarding, governance and possible financial and emotional abuse of people at their most vulnerable time".
A private provider; CareRooms, is working with the NHS in Essex to pilot the model and finalise how it will work. According to the CareRooms website no previous care experience is needed and all a host needs to get started is; "a spare bedroom or annexe with easy access to a private bathroom".
It goes on to say; "Our hospitals are becoming increasingly full with patients who have nowhere to go, your spare room and bathroom can be safely converted to allow patients to be discharged for maximum of 2 weeks".
CareRooms has set up a stall in the restaurant at Southend Hospital to find potential hosts.
Harry Thirkettle, CareRooms Medical Director & 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."
Christina McAnea, UNISON Assistant General Secretary, said:
“This scheme looks like another dangerous experiment which will do nothing to tackle the underlying problems in the health and social care system.
“While it is important for the NHS to ensure there are enough beds available, this shouldn’t mean pushing patients out of hospitals and into private homes. This could raise all sorts of issues around privacy, safeguarding and security.
“There is a clear need for a well resourced social care system that can provide the trained staff and resources to support people to live independently in the community upon release from hospital.”
A spokesman for Southend council said;
“We want to make it clear that, at this early stage, the council has only agreed to continue exploring the viability of the project with other partners.
“We are awaiting further information on how the project will run and the preparation of a detailed business case before we can make any formal commitment or give support to the project.”
The pilot is set to involve Southend University Hospital Foundation Trust (SUHFT); Southend and Castlepoint, Rayleigh and Rochford Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG); Essex County Council and Southend Council.