Unite has slammed the Tories for continuing to tout the idea of renting spare rooms from the public to temporarily house recovering NHS patients, even after widespread condemnation from health groups and cross-party politicians.
Yesterday (October 29) health minister Philip Dunne told BBC Radio 5 live that he “wouldn’t rule out” proposals for an Airbnb-style service that would see patients transferred out of hospitals to recuperate in rented rooms.
His comments come after Essex’s Southend Hospital, which was linked to a proposed trial of 30 patients, distanced itself from the idea – designed to free up hospital beds.
Dunne said, “Well, I wouldn’t rule it out. This is not national policy, anything innovative needs to be very carefully scrutinised and assessed before we proceed with it.
“But I wouldn’t, just as an immediate knee jerk, say that new models of care in the community are necessarily wrong.”
The proposal first came to light last week, provoking fierce criticism.
The Save Southend A&E campaign group said it “opens a huge can of worms for safeguarding, governance and possible financial and emotional abuse of people at their most vulnerable time”.
Shadow social care minister Barbara Keeley described it as “terrifying” and a sign of a system in crisis.
Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said, “This initiative reeks of desperation. It’s like trying to treat severe injuries with sticking plasters.
“Unfortunately it’s the NHS and our social care system that are wounded and deep Tory cuts are to blame. While ministers are tinkering about with silly ideas like this, our health and social services are flatlining.”
She added, “Instead of trialling quack cures, the government needs to provide the funding necessary to get our hospitals and care services back on their feet.
“Rather than wasting money on so called ‘NHS Airbnbs’, they need to provide the men and women who work ceaselessly to keep the system running with a pay rise that reflects the cost of living.”
An NHS England spokesperson said the trial “is a long way from being implemented and would first need to be very carefully assessed and tested”.