North Staffordshire 'hospital at Home' scheme launched
A Stoke-on-Trent hospital has begun using a private company to treat patients at home as part of a drive to clear beds.
The University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UHNS) signed a three-year, £8m deal with Healthcare at Home Ltd.
It is hoped the scheme will create capacity for an extra 41 patients.
But critics of the programme said it raised safety concerns.
The scheme will initially be rolled out to patients in general medicine, elderly care and trauma and orthopaedics.
Patient Andy Fallows, one of the first UHNS patients to be treated at home, feels he has more freedom.
Nurses visit Andy four times a day to administer antibiotics.
"I'm not tied to certain times plus I'm not bored all day," he said.
But health campaigner Ian Syme accused the hospital of using a "test and learn" approach.
"It is a loophole that means UHNS does not have to tender this work out."
Chief executive Mark Hackett said there was evidence to suggest those treated at home often recovered more quickly.
"Our patients have told us that what they really want is to be able to go home as quickly as is safe to do so, and the Hospital at Home scheme is able to support this," he said.