UK: NHS Homes, the scheme launched by the short-term rental sector to initially offer free accommodation and amenities to NHS key workers in London, has rapidly 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 – home owners who rent out their properties while they are away – to offer homes to NHS workers to stay in, that would otherwise be empty.
To date, more than 800 rooms are on offer to NHS staff, highlighting the rapidly increasing level of demand. That equates to over £2.6 million 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 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, City Relay, Portfolio Serviced Apartments and Sykes Holiday Cottages that has up to 2,000 properties to potentially include in the scheme.
In addition, the Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers [ASSC] has joined to facilitate the scheme in Scotland. The founding organisations participating in the scheme are UnderTheDoormat, Laundryheap, onefinestay, Homes & Villas by Marriott International, Altido and LoveHomeSwap.
There are also a number of associated companies providing new additional services to the scheme:
- Pikl Insurance – free host insurance cover to 500 hosts who are letting NHS workers stay in their properties
- SUPERHOG – discounted host membership of its SUPERHOG scheme for homeowners and free guest membership for NHS workers staying in scheme homes that protects hosts and guests from property damage, liability and fraud
- Airlinen – 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,” she added.
Veeve CEO David Hosking said: “This is such a great industry-wide initiative that we had no hesitation in joining once we heard about it. We pledge to do as much as we can to work with our members to make homes available for NHS staff.
“There’s no better way to make use of properties that are currently not being occupied,” he added.
Sykes Holiday Cottages CEO Graham Donoghue said: “We would like to thank all of our owners who have given us their initial support to support this scheme. We are delighted to be able to work with the NHS Homes scheme and make available such a large number of properties across the UK.”
Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the ASSC, said: “I am delighted that we are able to join this scheme and extend the offer of accommodation to NHS workers in Scotland. It is truly awesome what our NHS staff are doing for our communities, so it is appropriate that we are able to provide them with somewhere safe and comfortable to stay when they finish their shifts.
“I would like to recognise the huge amount of work that the STAA and the original members played in getting this scheme up and running in such a very short time,” she added.
Louise Birritteri, founder and CEO of Pikl Insurance, said: “The NHS Homes scheme is a great example of the short-term let industry coming together to offer practical and much needed help, so it was natural for us to say thank you to those homeowners who have pledged their properties to the scheme to offer them free insurance for the period that it’s likely to run.”
Comments from homeowners who have offered the properties to the NHS Homes scheme:
- Simon Bell spends much of his time in Sri Lanka so usually rents out his London home while he is away: “It just felt like some way of being able to help when we’re so far away and so many people are suffering so much worse. It was a no-brainer, a brilliant idea.”
Comments from NHS workers who are currently using the scheme:
- Abbas Zayni of Guys Hospital 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, and I will forward your details to my colleagues if they require any help. I fully recommend the way I have been treated and I thank you immensely.”
- John Thornton, anaesthetist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “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.”
Who to contact:
NHS workers who want to request accommodation and those companies with properties to offer the scheme should go to the NHS Homes website here.