Hospital patients could be discharged early into hotels to free up NHS beds during winter COVID crisis

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·3 min read

Watch: Matt Hancock confirms NHS could discharge some patients early

Hospitals across the UK are considering discharging patients early and transferring them to hotels in an attempt to ease pressure on the NHS.

As hospital figures hit a new high in the UK this week, with 35,075 COVID patients on wards as of Monday – a 22% increase from last week – hospital trusts are said to considering putting patients up in nearby hotels, according to The Guardian.

It is hoped that by moving those who are out of danger, the NHS will be able to free up more beds for critical COVID patients.

The Guardian reported that patients are already being transferred from King's College Hospital, London, to a nearby Best Western-branded hotel in Croydon.

A pedestrian walks past a COVID-19 information display sign outside Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool, northwest England, on January 7, 2021 as the Clap for Carers resumed as 'Clap for Heroes', to show thanks to key workers, including Britain's NHS (National Health Service) workers and other frontline medical staff, for their work during the coronavirus pandemic. - Medical chiefs in England raced to boost treatment capacity on Thursday as a surge in coronavirus cases risked overwhelming hospitals, even as the government stepped up its mass inoculation campaign. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP) (Photo by LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images)
A pedestrian walks past a COVID-19 information display sign outside Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool. (Getty)

The London Hotel Group, which owns the Best Western chain, is in talks with 20 NHS trusts about providing spare capacity, the paper added.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said the government was looking at “all options” to help ease the pressures on hospitals but insisted transferring patients to hotels was not yet in their plans.

Hancock told BBC Breakfast that sending some patients to hotels was a “further back-up plan” if appropriate for the patient but “it’s not something we are actively putting in place”.

He said it would be for “step-down” patients only.

Pushed on the issue of whether patients could be discharged early and transferred to hospitals, Hancock said to Sky News: “We’d only ever do that if it was clinically the right thing for somebody.

“But in some cases, people need step-down care, they don't actually need to be in a hospital bed…

“So this isn't a concrete proposal by any means, but it’s something we look at, because we look at all contingencies.”

Asked if the NHS could end up overwhelmed, Hancock added: “We’re going to do everything we possibly can to give the NHS the support, the resources it needs.

“That includes, for instance, opening the Nightingale hospitals, and the London Nightingale hospital is now receiving patients for the first time since April.”

Read more: What you can and can't do under current lockdown rules

Dr Nikki Kanani, medical director of primary care for the NHS in England, said the pressure on the NHS hospitals was the “worst” she had known it to be.

“It’s really pressured, its staff are absolutely working beyond all of their time and energy,” she told Good Morning Britain.

When asked if it is the worst she has known it to be, she added: “Yes, it is the worst for staff, for services, our sector.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock meets staff and volunteers during a visit to the NHS vaccine centre at Epsom racecourse in Epsom, southern England on January 11, 2021. - The centre is one of the seven mass vaccination centres now opened to the general public as the government continues to ramp up the vaccination programme against Covid-19. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DOMINIC LIPINSKI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Health secretary Matt Hancock said the government was looking at 'all options' when it came to easing pressure on the NHS. (Getty)

“Please, please, please follow the guidance, stay at home, act as though you have COVID, stay at home and look after yourself and your family, because that’s what we need you to do right now.”

With hospitals facing unprecedented pressure, hopes have turned to the vaccination programme in the UK to start to bring down cases and end restrictions.

The UK has vaccinated nearly 2.5 million people so far but the government is under pressure to introduce a round-the-clock initiative.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 11, 2021: Visitors leave after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine at NHS Nightingale hospital at the ExCeL exhibition centre, which re-opens today as a mass vaccination centre, on 11 January, 2021 in London, England. Hospitals across the country are dealing with the rapid surge in Covid-19 cases, providing care to more than 30,000 people, which is around 50% more than at the peak of the virus in spring, with fears that hospitals in London may be overwhelmed within two weeks unless the current infection rate falls.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Visitors leave after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at NHS Nightingale hospital at the ExCeL exhibition centre, after it re-opened as a mass vaccination hub. (Getty)

On vaccinating people 24/7, the health secretary said: “We’re absolutely up for doing that if it helps to speed up the vaccination programme.

“I can’t see that being the major factor, because most people want to get vaccinated in the daytime, and also most people who are doing the vaccinations want to give them in the daytime, but there may be circumstances in which that would help.

“We’re absolutely up for that.”

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