A radical new plan intended to save the NHS £1 billion by reducing the amount of bed-blocking in the healthcare system has been unveiled.
This new initiative involves 35,000 new and specially-converted properties intended for those hospitalised over the age of 16.
In order to run the new scheme, the NHS will liaise with local social services.
The aim is to ensure that patients who have no medical need to be based in hospital can be safely looked after without being forced to return to their own homes, which can often be impossible.
It is common for such individuals to have mobility issues, while residing in remote areas that have no access to care can also be a major problem.
Empty buildings – including 16 empty hospitals and dozens of unused GP surgeries – are costing the NHS £10.3 million annually.
But the new plan will instead see such individuals provided with sheltered flats or bungalows.
This compares very favourably on an economic level, with the approximate cost being £500 per month, compared to nearly £2,000 in a hospital.
Health minister David Mowat is currently considering the idea, with support being proffered by Tory ex-care minister Alistair Burt.
Ex-Labour minister Phil Woolas has initially conceived of the concept.
“I first had this idea when I faced constant financial demands to solve the bed blocking crisis,” Woolas explained.
The ex-minister is now the head of Hope Living, which aims to raise £4.75 billion from investors over seven years.
Hope Living will provide sheltered accommodation if the scheme is improved, with some of the rental being met via housing allowance.
Councils and the NHS would theoretically provide the care, directly or through companies.
Sheltered accommodation will initially be refurbished in Manchester, with 30,000 in new builds representing the second phase of the operation.
Manchester City Council social care leader Cllr Paul Andrews is enthusiastic about the potential of the clan, noting that “if this does what it says on the can we’ll be very interested in being involved.”
NHS statistics indicate that approximately 8,500 beds are currently occupied on a daily basis by patients not actually requiring hospital treatment.