by Ceren Sagir
MINISTERS need to “take their heads out of the sand,” health campaigners said today as a hospital prepared to move patients to a hotel to free up beds.
Up to 15 people will receive care at a Norwich city-centre hotel in a pilot scheme that will last three months, said NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
A critical incident declared in the area’s health and care system remains in force.
Under the pilot scheme, due to begin within weeks, patients who are ready to leave hospital but need extra support before they can go home will be moved into a hotel.
Once there, they will be cared for by staff from private provider Abicare.
CCG chief nurse Cath Byford said that the plan will “help speed up the passage of patients” through local hospitals, so that more beds are available for “those who need them most.”
She stressed that NHS staff have been “working tirelessly to ensure that people get the medical help they need as quickly and as safely as possible during this time of enormous pressure on our services.
“This innovative pilot will provide a short-term, safe, ‘home from home’ environment for people to move to from hospital when they are well enough but when they are not quite ready to go home without support,” she said.
Ms Byford added that the approach has been “used successfully in other regions.”
But health unions and campaigners told the Morning Star that the move shows the urgent need for government action to protect the NHS.
GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said: “Before the pandemic, the NHS was on its knees — after two years of Covid, it is close to collapse.
“Outsourcing patients to hotels is just another example of this.
“Instead of empty clapping gestures and promises of pretend hospitals, this government needs to invest properly in our health service, most importantly by giving staff a proper pay rise.”
Keep Our NHS Public co-chairman Dr John Puntis said: “The dire state of the NHS and social care sector is there for all to see, except a government blinded by a political imperative to persuade us that the pandemic is all but over and some paltry additional funding will sort out the huge problems of chronic understaffing, underinvestment and massive waiting lists.
“Patients who would be suitable for discharge home if only community care and support services were available are likely to be the ones sent to hotels, freeing up some much-needed beds.
“This should be a wake-up call to ministers to take their heads out of the sand and seriously address the state of both NHS and social care.
“It is plain that the current workforce plan, NHS Long Term Plan and the Health and Care Bill all not only fail to address the harsh realities but push towards a larger, stronger private sector cashing in where it sees profit to be made.”
Under the banner of “SOS NHS,” a broad coalition of unions and campaigning groups, including GMB and Keep Our NHS Public, are calling for an emergency injection of £20 billion, investment in a fully publicly owned NHS, a guarantee of free healthcare for future generations and proper pay for staff.