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Controversial ‘CareBnB’ firm returns to launch new trial

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The company developing a controversial “Airbnb for social care” model allowing homeowners to rent spare rooms to recuperating hospital patients is bidding to launch a new trial in Cambridge.

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Private start up CareRooms was forced to abort its first pilot, exclusively revealed by HSJ, with the NHS in Essex in November, after patient groups and social care directors raised safeguarding concerns about care being provided by non-care professionals.

But it is now establishing a “working group” with Cambridgeshire County Council and has begun advertising for “host” households in the county, which includes the East Cambridgeshire constituency of junior health minister Stephen Barclay.

The Conservative controlled council confirmed the new group would meet for the first time imminently to discuss the “innovative CareRooms concept”. The council has not committed to pilot the model yet.

Chairwoman of the council’s adults committee Anna Bailey told HSJ the make up of the group and chair was still being confirmed. But it would include senior adult social care council officers, council commissioners, and “some frontline social care and NHS representation, possibly a nurse or community matron”.

Speaking exclusively to HSJ CareRooms chief executive Paul Gaudin robustly defended the model against the significant criticism it received after the Essex pilot was revealed.

He said:

  • The initial focus would be on offering “choice” to low acuity “medically fit for discharge” self funding patients requiring care at home, or in a care home
  • The service would not fall under the Care Quality Commission’s jurisdiction because neither CareRooms nor the hosts would provide “care”
  • CareRooms would offer state of the art safeguarding technology platform which includes 24/7 biometric monitoring
  • Hosts could earn up to £1,000 a month by taking part
  • Patients would have 24/7 instant access to a video GP service, if they felt unwell
  • Hosts will have to go through a vetting process and training process

Asked about the lack of CQC involvement, he said neither the company nor the hosts would be “delivering care in rooms,” he said, “We are providing safe guarded rooms… and a meal service. We are contracting CQC regulated third parties to provide the care [if it is required].”

He added that CQC guidelines would not allow the host to deliver care.

Ms Bailey told HSJ: “The council has not committed to piloting CareRooms, but we think the innovative concept is interesting and worth exploring. We are especially interested in some of the innovative individual elements of the service, particularly its use of assistive technology.

“We would like to give CareRooms the space to explore its concept [and] help the company gain a deep understanding of the system through access to staff within it.”

The company said the model could run without NHS buy in, because its initial focus is on self paying low acuity discharged patients.

Mr Gaudin co-founded the Peterborough based company that played a major role in bringing bagels to the UK mass market in the 1980s, the New York Bagel Company. However, for the last 25 years he has been in the healthcare field.

He told HSJ he had the idea for CareRooms following his experiences caring for his father, who died in 2016 after a long fight against Parkinson’s disease. “He was regularly in hospital and it was always a challenge to get him discharged because he was vulnerable. Sometimes, he was stuck in hospital for two or three weeks while we supported equipment out.”

He said CareRooms addressed a number of problems: the sharply increasing shortage of care homes and NHS capacity; a means of providing some households with an additional income; and what could be much needed social interaction for recovering patients, as well as hosts.

He described how his mother had become socially isolated following his father’s death. She could have hugely benefited socially and financially by renting out a room in her house still kitted out with homecare equipment, he said.

The Essex pilot last year was swiftly dropped by the NHS partners, led by Southend University Hospital Foundation Trust, just a day after the news broke. This was despite the extensive work done by the NHS with the company on a proof of concept pilot.

Then health minister Philip Dunne however defended the plans, stating that “one has to try different things”. And HSJ understands the plans retain support of senior influential figures within both the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England.

The company told HSJ it received around 600 applications from potential hosts from all over England in just three days after the plans became public, despite largely adverse publicity.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • All the controversy and yet many areas are using their Shared Lives services for step down provision already (or considering doing so) with the added bonus of CQC registration.

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