Free NHS homes scheme increases capacity and geographical reach

Nia Williams

April 9, 2020

NHS Homes, a scheme launched by the short-term let sector to initially offer free accommodation and amenities to NHS key workers in London, has expanded its capacity and geographical reach thanks to several new members joining.

The scheme is operated by a number of professional management companies in the short-term let industry, under the umbrella of the UK Short Term Accommodation Association (STAA), enabling NHS staff to stay in homes near the hospitals they work in for free during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a massive downturn in bookings in the short-term rental market so, with the STAA’s help, several companies have joined forces with their customers – homeowners who rent out their properties while they are away – to offer homes for NHS workers to stay in that would otherwise be empty.

The STAA said the level of demand to help the NHS in the first week alone has been incredible and to date more than 800 rooms are currently on offer to NHS staff. This equates to over £2.6m in equivalent value which is being supplied free to the NHS and the people who are on the front-line of the crisis.

It is expected that the available portfolio will grow in capacity to more than 2,500 by the end of the week once the new members’ properties have been made available.

The founding organisations participating in the scheme are UnderTheDoormat, Laundryheap, onefinestay, Homes & Villas by Marriott International, Altido and LoveHomeSwap.

The latest companies to have pledged available properties to the NHS Homes scheme are Veeve, Air Peace of Mind, Dreams Unlimited, Mason & Fifth, Park Lane City Apartments, Hemmingfords, CityRelay, Portfolio Serviced Apartments and Sykes Holiday Cottages. In addition, the Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers has joined to facilitate the scheme in Scotland.

There are also a number of associated companies providing new additional services to the scheme: Pikl Insurance which gives free host insurance cover the 500 hosts who are letting NHS workers stay in their properties; Guardhog, protecting hosts and guests from property damage, liability and fraud; and Airlinen, providing linen and other essentials delivered to the door at cost

Merilee Karr, chair of the STAA and CEO of UnderTheDoormat, said: “It has taken a tremendous amount of hard work to launch this scheme so quickly.

“I would like to thank everyone involved for their efforts as the demand we’ve already had for homes from NHS workers proves that this is an incredibly valuable initiative.

“I am also delighted to welcome on board our new members whose properties will provide a lifeline to those working in the NHS who are looking to keep themselves and their families safe.

“I am particularly pleased that the scheme is now truly across the UK from as far west as Bridgend in Wales to Ipswich in the east and from Exeter in the south-west to Glasgow in Scotland.

“To achieve something like this at a time where we, as an industry, are in the midst of the biggest crisis we have faced, is testament to the genuine goodwill of the people working in this sector. I am proud that we have come together in this difficult time for everyone to make a meaningful contribution as an industry.”

Understandably, the scheme has gone down well with the NHS workers using it. Abbas Zayni who works at Guys Hospital in London, said: “You are truly doing us and the country proud with this great initiative to support us on the front line. We are extremely grateful for the service you have provided.”

John Thornton, an anaesthetist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, agreed: “It’s a fantastic gesture and very helpful. If one of your family gets sick, you can avoid them and not have to isolate for a week or two.”

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