UP TO a third of cancer patients at a leading National Health Services (NHS) trust will be moved out of wards and put up in nearby hotels under plans to save tens of millions of pounds on hospital beds in Britain.
According to a report in the Sunday Times, over 100 patients suffering from cancer or blood disorders at University College hospital (UCH) in London have already stayed at NHS expense at the Radisson Edwardian Grafton, a four-star hotel where rooms cost Ģ168 a night.
Despite the high cost of the accommodation, it is cheaper for patients to stay in the hotel than in hospital. A bed on a cancer ward costs between Ģ500 and Ģ600 a night.
Patients staying in privately run hotels benefit by spending more time with their families, in addition to avoiding the risk of picking up hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA.
Two other hospitals in the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have transferred patients to local hotels. Patients at the Royal London Homeopathic hospital are being accommodated in the Bloomsbury Holiday Inn and patients from the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery are being put up at the Imperial President hotel.
Patients receive chemotherapy, stem cell transplants or diagnostic investigations in hospital during the day and retire to their hotel room, often with a family member, in the evening. Hotel rooms are suitable for patients who are well enough not to need 24-hour nursing care, and still require treatment or daily monitoring.
Unlike hospital in-patients, those who have hotel rooms have their own en suite bathroom, television and, if they are well enough, can use the hotels' leisure facilities.
If patients develop a fever or nausea they are admitted to hospital, where some beds are held empty for this purpose.
So far the hotel rooms have been rented by the NHS trust as a pilot project. Once the scheme is proved to be safe and preferred by the patients, the NHS trust plans to extend the scheme on a much wider scale.
This is not only relevant for cancer care. The NHS trust is doing something similar with the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, the largest neurology hospital in Britain, to which patients are referred from around the UK.
One patient stayed at the Radisson Edwardian Grafton hotel for 25 days, at a cost of approximately Ģ4,000. The hospital in-patient bill for the same period would have been about Ģ14,000.
The drive for cost savings would force the NHS to move towards greater use of hotels. The money paid towards bed occupancy could go into paying for these expensive new cancer drugs. This will also be applied to cardiac care and diabetes.
UCH is planning to build a new specialist daycare cancer centre. Once it is open, hundreds of patients will need to be accommodated in local hotels. The trust will either negotiate deals with other chains or build its own hotel.