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The Telegraph 5,000 NHS patients put up in hotels

  • 30.08.2013
  • Olivia Goldhill and Laura Donnelly

NHS hospitals have been accused of wasting money and putting lives at risk by putting up almost 5,000 patients in hotels.

Those suffering from cancer, schizophrenia and chronic back pain are among those who have been allocated the accomodation, at an average cost of £320 per stay.

Freedom of Information requests reveal the scale of NHS hotel-use for the first time, with a total of £1.6 million spent by 21 trusts since January 2012 - including repeated use of lavish four star accomodation.

Ministers have suggested that such schemes, widely used in Scandanavia, could save the NHS money, and provide better accomodation for up to 30,000 elderly patients stuck in hospitals after recovering from falls and operations.

But patients’ groups expressed concerns about the safety of current arrangements, because of the types of patients now being selected, as well as the luxury nature of much of the accomodation.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust used the four-star Mercure Sheffield St Paul’s Hotel and Spa on eight occasions for cancer patients with early next day appointments for radiosurgery, the disclosures show.

The hotel includes an indoor heated pool and a "champagne bar" and one night with breakfast normally costs £94. Most rooms feature a balcony and are "beautifully decorated in elegant tones and wooden furniture creating a comfortable atmosphere", according to the hotel website.

King’s College Hospital, which offers hotels for patients travelling from afar with early morning appointments, spent £2,150 on the four-star Church Street Hotel, London, where a standard double ensuite is £125 for a night.

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust sent patients with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and personality disorders to stay in hotels, the disclosures show, including one bill for £945 on accommodation at the four-star Croydon Park Hotel for one patient.

University Hospitals Bristol used hotels for cardiac patients, surgery patients, and paediatrics, as well as for long-term care of those recovering from bone marrow transplants.

Last year an inquest heard how a cancer patient died alone in a four-star hotel he was sent to by University College London Hospital, after underdoing rounds of chemotherapy.

Salford Royal trust uses hotels for patients with chronic pain, such as back or neck pain, while Royal Free hospital in London uses hotels for patients who need infusions or investigations over several days, and said it was cheaper for patients who don’t need a hospital bed to stay in a hotel.

Some trusts said they offered hotels if patients have early morning appointments. Others said such accomodation could be cheaper than a night in the ward if a patient did not require 24-hour-care.

Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: "It’s a terrible waste of the NHS budget and taxpayers’ money for health chiefs to resort to putting up patients in 4 star hotels.

"If the NHS did not squander cash so readily elsewhere it would not struggle to treat and accommodate patients on hospital grounds. The sick should be kept and cared for on wards, not carted off to expensive hotels that consume even more of the health budget."

Concerns were also raised about the well-being of patients who need hospital care but are left to recuperate in hotels.

Roger Goss, co-director of Patient Concern said the schemes were "an outrageous waste of taxes" and could pose a risk to patients, unless they were very carefully selected.
He said he was particularly concerned about the use of hotel accomodation for those with serious mental health problems.

Julia Manning, chief executive of think tank 2020Health
said hotels could be a sensible use of NHS resources, and could work out cheaper and more comfortable for patients. However, she said the NHS should not be spending on the most lavish hotels, and should be very careful in the selection of patients, and keeping "high-risk" cases on site.

Martin Baggaley, Medical Director at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We only put patients in a hotel if it is necessary to do so. These are people who are ready to leave hospital. Arrangements are made locally for them to move into a hotel on a temporary basis. We think this is better than keeping people in hospital unnecessarily. We have never had any serious incidents occurring when we take this form of action.”

The trust said such accomodation might be provided if a patient was well enough to return home, but was unable to, because they were homeless or their home was uninhabitable.
A spokesperson for King’s College Hospital said hotel accomodation was provided for some patients who travelled hundreds of miles for liver services.