Socialist Worker

Healthcare ‘AirBnB’ is no substitute for hospital beds

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2577

Bosses think its a solution to bed blocking

Bosses think it's a solution to "bed blocking" (Pic: Presidencia de la República Mexicana/Flickr)

A trendy start-up company have cooked up a dangerous new idea to deal with the desperate shortage of hospital beds. Patients recovering from surgery in Essex could be put up in people’s spare bedrooms for £1,000 a month.

The CareRooms start up firm is finalising the pilot scheme with local health bosses. A company spokesperson said that it was similar to AirBnB, where people can rent out their homes or rooms to holiday goers.

CareRooms website is a terrifying window onto what the Tories and privateers want to do to social care. It reads as if it were a site satirising privatisation.

It reassures potential hosts that “no care experience” is required. But there is an “option to attend training to become a carer for your patient if you are interested in increasing your skills and your income”.

Health care isn’t just about administering medicine, it’s about looking after the patient’s social needs. CareRooms makes sure to tick that box, noting, “You may wish to offer conversation where appropriate.”


And amid the hosts busy work and social lives, CareRooms has the patients’ care covered. “The patient is monitored and supported by CareRooms call centres and technology and we can allow remote access to friends and family”.

Health campaigners immediately raised concerns about patient safety. The Save Southend A&E campaign said it “opens a huge can of worms for safeguarding, governance and possible financial and emotional abuse of people at their most vulnerable time”.

And safeguarding is not the only issue. Even the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said that the “model of care raises questions about whether the safety and wellbeing of the individual is fully considered”.

The real problem lies in the Tories’ decimation of local authorities’ social care budgets. After an operation or treatment in hospital patients should be discharged onto a social care package, which is agreed between the hospital and council.

Sometimes charities take the place of councils.

But Tory budget cuts means there simply aren’t the social care packages available, leaving people stuck within hospital. This is labelled as “bed blocking”—and on some days up to 6,000 patients are in beds when they don’t need to be in hospital.

While they don’t need to be in hospital, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have medical or social needs that require professional attention. 

Health bosses have seen a way to cut costs of keeping people in hospital in the short term and massage their bed occupancy figures. More profiteering is no solution—funding the NHS properly to meet people’s social needs is.

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