Just over a fortnight ago, there was a very interesting piece in the EDP and Evening News by David Hannant, specialist reporter on health and education. 

It began: Norfolk is pioneering a radical project to tackle the NHS crisis which could see people paid to offer up their homes to hospital patients to free up beds on wards.

This seems like an intriguing idea, don’t you think?  

For decades, one of the biggest problems in the NHS has been the number of beds occupied by people who are no longer very sick but who can’t be discharged because they have nowhere to go, or no one to look after them. 

Under this proposed scheme, such patients could be placed in a caring home-environment, where they would doubtless sleep better, enjoy individual care from a person who would quickly become familiar, and be at much lower risk of contracting infection. It would also save the NHS millions and free up beds which are currently so scarce. 

Obviously, there would be major concerns about safeguarding these vulnerable patients, but they would remain under the care of the hospital and be monitored remotely. Also, anyone looking after them would have to be thoroughly vetted and trained. 

The hope is that former health workers might volunteer as carers, though other people will be considered too. And if everything goes to plan, a pilot scheme will get underway soon. 

The project, inspired by a similar scheme in China, will be masterminded by Blended Learning UK, and its founder Professor Jerome Pereira who is a surgeon at the James Paget Hospital. 

Alongside the James Paget, two other hospitals will be involved – the Norfolk and Norwich, and the Queen Elizabeth in King’s Lynn. 

But the potential is huge and before long it could be operational in the rest of East Anglia and indeed the country as a whole.  

What I find particularly attractive about the idea is that it would not only benefit the sick people who would be able to leave hospital but would tick a lot of boxes for adults of all ages who would like to feel more needed. 

This applies to many of us. Look, for example, at how many individuals in our region have offered homes to Ukrainian refugees. 

It is a healthy part of the human spirit to want to help others. And thank heavens it is. 

Back in the early 1980s, I used to present an adoption slot within the nightly TV news magazine programme, About Anglia. We were asked by Barnardo’s to feature children who were disabled. 

I remember querying whether anyone would volunteer for such an onerous task. And I was told, quite firmly, by the very brilliant woman in charge of the initiative, that many people have an intrinsic need to care for others. 

"We will find placements for these children," she insisted. And we did. This was so wonderful, and really heartening. 

As you’re probably aware, I’ve often written about how important it is for us, as we age, to have a sense that we are still useful. Feeling needed gives us purpose and is a potent emotion. So, I think a lot of folk will be attracted by this new ‘foster’ scheme for patients, including many who have nursed a partner or parent, and miss having someone to look after. 

But before you apply, what should you ask yourself?  

You should certainly consider thinking about how caring for someone poorly would impact on your own life. Will you still have time to walk your dog? What about your own family? Might they worry you would no longer have spare time to help them out with childcare or other chores that you routinely do? 

Also, what about time for yourself? What if you don’t like the person you’re caring for?

Or what if you become very attached to them and it takes over your life? You probably can’t predict the answers to these questions, but it’s important to give them some thought nonetheless, and to establish what support there would be for you if you were accepted as a carer.   

Clearly, there would be payment for your services, probably around £500 a week.

This is an important factor, because so many adults currently are worrying about the cost of living crisis and wondering how they could utilise their own homes to make a bit of extra cash. 

However, though looking after someone would bring financial reward, it’s not likely to be an easy way to boost the bank balance. And if you’re not sure you could cope with the demands on you if you had a patient in your home, you might feel that finding an ordinary  lodger would be a simpler option. 

However, if you love to be needed, and would relish the chance to be part of something new and exciting and believe it would be satisfying to help others in this way, then this could be for you. Certainly, it could ultimately make an enormous difference to vast numbers of patients, and to the health service.