It has been announced that Barts NHS Trust will enter into a partnership with Uber to transfer vulnerable patients to non-emergency appointments. The ambition of the deal is to reduce bed-blocking by providing an easily accessible and reliable service to allow vulnerable people and their carers to book transport with a service that is able to accommodate a significant volume of journeys.
A spokesperson for the agreement said the deal would “radically integrate care and transport through technology” adding “older people and those with disabilities will now have access to the highest-quality drivers, while carers will be able to efficiently travel to ensure they can provide services in the right place at the right time. These partnerships tackle major challenges in the NHS, cracking down on bed-blocking and delayed discharges, while providing high-quality and efficient care.”
No details have been released in relation to the cost of the agreement to the Trust but it is hoped that the Trust was able to negotiate a cost effective partnership. However, if the agreement helps the Trust achieve a reduction in the amount of time that beds are blocked then any increased actual cost of the transport arrangement could potentially be balanced out. The cost of bed blocking is financially crippling on NHS services and prevents care being administered to others in need.
Interesting new ways of conducting business within the care sector are of course welcomed. However, whilst the agreement may enable the Trust to transport people more efficiently, in some cases they will still need to find appropriate care placements for people to transfer to before they can free up their beds. Therefore, there must be a multi-faceted approach. Hospitals remain beholden to some care providers who may be at capacity or do not receive enough funding to allow them to take on a placement. Irrespective of this pressing issue the new agreement does appear to be a step in the right direction for the Trust and looks to be a service which could potentially be utilised by other Trusts and care providers.
Commenting on the initiative, David Mowat, minister for community and social care, said “This is an interesting and innovative proposal which will help raise awareness of the challenges faced by the vulnerable elderly, and those with specific conditions that are becoming increasingly common in our society.”