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Overstretched hospitals may soon discharge patients early to care homes, private addresses or hotels to make space for critical Covid treatment, it is claimed.
According to documents seen by The Guardian, coronavirus patients could soon return to care homes even if they haven't tested negative for the virus in a desperate bid to stop the NHS collapsing.
Hotels are also allegedly set to take in patients who have nowhere else to go, with The London Hotel Group (LHG) already giving accommodation to Covid patients.
It comes as hospitals in the capital risk being overwhelmed during the deadly third wave of the pandemic.
The UK recorded its second deadliest day since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a further 1,243 lives lost to the virus.
The Department of Health also confirmed that 45,533 people had tested positive for the virus in 24 hours.
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More than 35,000 people are currently being treated for coronavirus, with experts warning worse is to come.
NHS England chiefs are said to be having talks about the "home and hotel" plan, which could affect "thousands" of patients.
Health chiefs in England are set to start discharging patients "on a scale never seen before", The Guardian reports.
Care homes are reportedly being asked to accept patients without a negative test – so long as they have isolated for 14 days and have no new symptoms.
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Hospital bosses fear space needs to be created for life-or-death cases, and the London Hotel Group is reportedly in talks with 20 trusts about accepting patients.
Families of discharged patients will have to provide care for them, supported as much as possible by healthcare workers, it is claimed.
But insiders do not believe NHS staff will be able to offer much help, as sickness rates are soaring because workers are either ill or isolating.
An insider said: “This is for patients who don’t need to be in a hospital bed but still need to be in a protected environment."
More than 35,000 people are being treated in UK hospitals with Covid-19
It is hoped that the move can boost critical care capacity and save lives.
LHG chief executive Meher Nawab told The Guardian: “We will be looking to roll this solution out across our hotels to provide hospitals with a lifeline at this critical time.”
It is believed that the chain will be able to provide accommodation for 5,000 people who are discharged early.
Lucy Watson, chair of the Patients Association, said the situation is currently "dire", leaving the NHS with "no good options".
She said early discharge could result in harm to patients, and said care from volunteers is unlikely to be an adequate substitute for hospital treatment.
However she added: "But at a time when hospitals are overwhelmed by critically ill patients and striving to prevent loss of life on a large scale, clearly they will be making desperate choices.”
NHS England was not available for comment.