Thousands of hospital patients are to be discharged to hotels and their homes to free up beds for critical Covid cases.

The "home and hotel" plan will see patients released early en masse in a bid to prevent NHS services from being overwhelmed.

Documents seen by The Guardian show the NHS is also asking care homes to immediately admit Covid patients from hospital, without a negative test, provided they have been in isolation for 14 days and are not showing 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 in to help those discharged under the scheme.

Meher Nawab, chief executive of the London Hotel Group which owns the Best Western chain said the group is looking to make rooms available "to provide hospitals with a lifeline at this critical time".

Covid fills hospital beds

Lucy Watson, chairman of The Patients Association, said: "This is a dire situation. 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 patients and the need to readmit them. Care by volunteers in hotels is not an adequate substitute for proper hospital care."

The Department of Health and Social Care have been approached for comment.

Meanwhile, London’s Nightingale Hospital has reopened for the first time since the initial Covid wave to offset the pressure on hospitals.

NHS officials revealed on Tuesday night that the 100-acre Docklands site started receiving patients on Monday. Unlike in the first wave, the overflow facility is admitting non-Covid patients to create more room for those with the virus in permanent hospitals. The news came as the number of Covid patients in London reached 7,606, with 1,085 on ventilators.

Dr Vin Diwakar, NHS England’s medical director for London, said city trusts were treating three times that many without Covid. "As the pressure from Covid has increased, this has put pressure on the number of beds we have for other conditions," he said. "That’s why we opened the Nightingale."