Royal Free and UCLH spend millions on putting patients in hotels around London, Ham&High

The Royal Free alone is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to treat patients at Hampstead’s Premier Inn. By Anna Behrmann

Will you have a short stay in the Royal Free Hospital?

The Royal Free and University College Hospital have spent millions putting up patients receiving specialist treatment in hotels.

A Freedom of Information request from the Ham&High has revealed that the Royal Free spent more than £400,000 on sending 1,700 patients to the Premier Inn in Hampstead in 2016, for cancer, rheumatology, gastroenterology, neurology and respiratory treatments.

This is ten times more than the hospital was spending in 2010.

The bill has steadily gone up by 63 per cent from more than £220,000 in 2012, to £360,000 in 2015, and includes patients travelling from around the country for specialist treatment.

Tulip Siddiq, Labour parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, commented: “This is a sad indictment of the pressure on NHS resources created by chronic underfunding.

“Though the professionals at the Royal Free always act in the best interests of their patients, it is deeply worrying to see that they are increasingly dependent on hotels for overnight care.

“Outpatients, especially those with cancer, will want the closest possible attention from doctors and nurses, and it is clear a hospital bed is more suitable than a hotel bed.”

Meanwhile, a retired pub landlord told the Ham&High that the Royal Free pays for his taxi back and forth from Warwick to the Premier Inn in Hampstead when he receives his treatment – a journey of around 95 miles, which he estimates would cost the hospital £200.

Ray Leese, who has amyloidosis, a rare condition caused by deposits of abnormal protein in tissues and organs in the body, comes up the night before his 8am appointment, which takes place annually.

His wife stays with him in a double room, which is paid for by the Royal Free.

He would be willing to drive from Warwick, but the hospital will not reimburse him for his Premier Inn parking costs.

Patients can apply for transport costs if they are on a low income in all hospitals.

Mr Leese said: “This way they do it, it’s a stay at the hotel and a taxi which would cost them a fortune.

“I would be quite prepared to drive down at 5am and get there for 8am and have the treatment and come back, but they would only give me the petrol money to get back, and not pay for the [Premier Inn] parking.

“I have been in the situation where I’ve got there and then 10 minutes later there’s a woman coming in from Coventry – why couldn’t they pick me and my wife up and pick up the woman from Coventry and bring us both back?”

Speaking about the medical treatment, he added: “The service is brilliant, can’t knock it.”

The Royal Free argues that it is cheaper to send day patients receiving treatment who don’t need overnight care to the hotel and it means fewer delays for accident and emergency patients.

A spokeswoman said the number of patients in hotels has shot up because the Planned Investigation and Treatment Unit at the Royal Free has expanded since it opened in 2011.

The Royal Free hopes to start building the £42m Pears Building, a new medical centre, which will have 36 rooms this summer.

Meanwhile, UCLH is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to send patients to hotels around London, including the West End, Regent’s Park, Islington and even Gatwick – despite opening its own patient hotel.

UCLH opened the Cotton Rooms, a not-for-profit hotel for patients in 2012, but they still spent more than £641,000 on putting patients in other hotels in 2016.

Patients in hotels are given a mobile phone number and a pager number to call nurses 24/7. If they are placed in the Cotton Room, their rooms are also fitted with alarms.

A spokeswoman added: “It is a successful and alternative way of delivering treatment to cancer and neurology patients, who have welcomed the opportunity to carry on with ‘normal’ life in an environment where friends and family can stay with them.

“Patients are assessed against a list of strict eligibility criteria before they are offered the option to stay out of the hospital.”

Jeremy Newmark, Labour’s candidate for Finchley and Golders Green, added: “Against the backdrop of the NHS funding crisis this information raises a series of questions. We need to understand the extent to which the Royal Free London Trust is carrying the burden of these costs. People need to understand what is going on in order to have confidence that patient organisation is being managed effectively. I will be writing to the Chair of the Royal Free London NHS Trust Dominic Dodd asking him to address these concerns.”

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