Thousands of hospital patients are to be discharged en masse to hotels and their own homes to free up beds for critical covid cases.
The new ‘home and hotel’ plan will see patients released early on an unprecedented scale in a bid to prevent NHS services from being overwhelmed by covid cases, senior sources have told the Guardian.
Documents released to the paper further reveal that the NHS is asking care homes to immediately admit covid patients from hospital, provided they have tested negative for the virus, have been in isolation for 14 days and are not showing any new symptoms.
Voluntary aid organisations such as St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross along with armed forces medical personnel and any available NHS staff will be drafted into help those who have been discharged under the scheme.
The London Hotel Group (LHG), which owns the Best Western chain, has already begun to take in patients testing positive from King’s College Hospital in south London and is reportedly looking after them in its hotel in nearby Croydon.
The company is also in talks with 20 other NHS trusts saying it could provide as much as 5,000 beds.
Families are expected to perform a key role in monitoring and caring for relatives who are sent home days or weeks before they would otherwise have left hospital along with additional support from health professionals where possible.
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.”
However, not all have welcomed the plan, arguing it will exacerbate the situation for non-covid patients in the long run as they will likely be readmitted a few weeks later in an even worse condition.
Lucy Watson, chair of The Patients Association said: “This is a dire situation, in which the NHS often has no good options available. Discharging patients early from hospital is likely to be one of few options open to the NHS to manage the scale of the current need.
“However, early discharge can often cause problems that result in harm to the patient and the need to re-admit them. Care by volunteers in hotels is not an adequate substitute for proper hospital care.
"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.”
The Department of Health and Social Care have been approached for comment.