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Barts Trust enters ‘gig economy’ style care contract with Cera

Neil Merrett Published 06 March 2017

Partnership will see hospital body making use of company’s technology platform to offer on-demand home care to help bridge hospital and at-home service provision


Barts Health NHS Trust and a number of NHS organisations have entered into a partnership with technology group Cera to tackle integrated care challenges by trying to free up hospital beds and overhaul how home support can be delivered to patients at home. 

The company will support the five London-based hospitals managed by the trust with its platform technology, which aims to link patients to available carers that can meet their specific health needs at home, effectively bringing peer-to-peer services similar to those provided by groups like Uber to the trust.

Other NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are also said to be making use of Cera’s technology as part of moves to support elderly patients with hospital discharge and trying to prevent readmissions with on-demand care at their homes.

According to the company, the platform service is regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and aims to streamline the process for connecting carers with patients.  Having begun operating in November, Cera has said that its services have included working with stroke units to transform how services and support can be supplied to NHS patients.

Company co-founder Dr Ben Maruthappu said the agreement with Barts was intended to offer a new approach to overcome challenges around how the NHS and local authorities are able to link up hospital and social care services amidst financial and governance challenges.

“These partnerships tackle major challenges in the NHS, cracking down on bed-blocking and delayed discharges, while providing high-quality and efficient care. Cera’s aim is to set the precedent for technology-led care solutions that benefit patients, families and the NHS alike," he said.

Integrated health and social care provision is expected to be one of the key focuses for the Budget that will be presented before parliament later this week.

Under a separate agreement that also commences this week, Cera has itself partnered with vehicle hire platform Uber to link up with the app to provide carers and clients with transportation to each other where needed.

It is understood that although there is no deal between Uber and the NHS trust, in certain cases, Cera may from this opt to use Uber services to hired trained individuals to take patients to and from hospitals in the case of non-emergency care where there is sufficient cost or convenience benefit.

Gig economy

Peer-to-peer technologies, which allow independent or effectively self-employed service providers to communicate directly with potential customers, have been popularised by the emergence of apps from private groups like Uber and property rental service Airbnb. 

Often touted as representing the so-called ‘gig economy', the practices have faced legal challenges around the role of the technology providers and their obligations with regard to employer benefits and responsibility.

In a statement released today, Barts stressed that it did not have any arrangement with Uber to transport patients for non-emergency cases.

“When patients need assistance getting to and from our hospitals we provide ambulances and medi-cars, driven by trained experts,” said the trust.

"We are working with a number of registered organisations, including Cera, to make sure patients get vital support in their own homes. This includes physiotherapy, nursing or domestic support to help people recover after a stay in hospital.”

Commenting on the partnerships between Barts and Cera to try and meet needs for more integrated care services, care minister David Mowat said he was looking forward to hearing more about results from the new arrangement.

 “This is an interesting and innovative proposal which will help raise awareness of the challenges faced by the vulnerable elderly, ‎and those with specific conditions that are becoming increasingly common in our society,” he said.

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