Once again the hospitality industry is looking like it’s about to be called on to go above and beyond, this time to help the NHS as the service discharges record numbers of patients to free up space for the critically ill as the COVID crisis reaches its latest peak.

Under plans devised by Health Secretary Matt Hancock hotels will provide a vital overspill facility to hospitals as patients who are not life-and-death ill are discharged en-masse to prevent the NHS from collapsing under the pressure. Kings College Hospital in Camberwell has already trialled this, by passing homeless Covid-positive patients to the London Hotel Group’s Best Western hotel in Croydon, and the scheme looks set for a widespread roll-out.

The scheme makes sense, hotels across the country are lying empty and have a great infrastructure in place for looking after the bed bound, with private rooms and catering facilities on-hand.

And while there are clearly some health risks to being apart from immediate emergency care, hospital beds are at such a premium that this form of rationing will no doubt be preferable to the alternative – the NHS being overwhelmed and imploding as happened in Italy during the first wave of coronavirus.

The London Hotel Group (LHG), which includes Best Western and Ibis Styles among its brands, has now in talks with 20 NHS trusts across the country  reckons it can provide 5,000 beds, 1,500 of them in London.

LHG’s chief executive, Meher Nawab, has said “We will be looking to roll this solution out across our hotels to provide hospitals with a lifeline at this critical time” while another spokesman for the group has explained “The patient group the NHS is seeking to accommodate at this stage are recovered or recovering from Covid and who are medically fit for discharge, and thus do not require specialist medical supervision or specialist care, but can’t yet return home. This frees up NHS bedspace and capacity and is relatively easy for hotels to accommodate.”

Patients will be cared for by volunteers from the likes of The British Red Cross and St John Ambulance as well as the army and any NHS staff who are available (which presumably will be few if any).

Which isn’t exactly the start to 2021 that the hotel industry was hoping for, but as ever hospitality has been there for the nation when it was called on. From using kitchens for NHS workers and covid volunteers to giving temporary homes to the homeless to offering up their facilities as vaccination centres, hospitality has always been keen to step up and help.

Let’s hope the government remembers that in the future!

As ever hospitality has been there for the nation when it was called on...

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