Southend Hospital has ‘no intention’ of taking part in Airbnb pilot until safeguarding in place

Southend Hospital. Picture: EASTNEWS/PETER LAWSON

Southend Hospital. Picture: EASTNEWS/PETER LAWSON - Credit: Peter Lawson/Eastnews

Controversial plans for patients in Southend-on-Sea to recover from hospital treatment in private homes have been rejected by an NHS boss.

Dr David Sollis, chief executive of Healthwatch Essex. Picture: HEALTHWATCH ESSEX

Dr David Sollis, chief executive of Healthwatch Essex. Picture: HEALTHWATCH ESSEX - Credit: HEALTHWATCH ESSEX

Private firm CareRooms is planning the Airbnb-style pilot, which would see around 30 patients staying with local residents with a spare room or annexe while they recuperate.

Hosts need no previous care experience to apply and would be offered up to £50 a night.

However, the hospital linked to the scheme has confirmed it has no immediate plans to take part.

Tom Abell, deputy chief executive of Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said there was “no intention and there never has been for the hospital to support this pilot at this time”.

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He added: “We will never compromise the safety and quality of care for patients and we will not support this pilot until the necessary safeguarding and quality arrangements are in place and there has been full engagement and discussion with our local communities on the proposal, this will happen after a period of detailed work and scoping that we have requested.”

Conversely, Dr David Sollis, chief executive of Healthwatch Essex, cautiously welcomed the initiative and likened it to a foster care system or halfway house.

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He said: “This whole system is about re-imagining how the public can get involved and be part of the solution.

“We don’t see this as the greatest idea ever but we are backing the pilot.

“The point is a hospital is there to get you well enough to go home. You never stay in a hospital to recover. There’s too many people in hospital trying to recover in bed and we have to get them out.”

He added: “It has an air of desperation but if you went into Dragon’s Den and said this is the plan I reckon they would put their money into it.”

Campaign group Save Southend A&E told the Health Service Journal it “opens a huge can of worms for safeguarding, governance and possible financial and emotional abuse of people at their most vulnerable time”.

Labour MP Barbara Keeley, shadow minister for mental health and social care, labelled the scheme “terrifying” and questioned patient safety.

Supporters say the scheme could help the hospital bed shortage by addressing issues like bed-blocking and readmissions.

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