Uber-style service to book carers ‘on demand’ launched nationally

The scheme – the biggest health startup in Europe – comes in response to a growing crisis in care of the elderly, with record levels of bed-blocking in hospital, often for want of care at home.

The founders of the business said it would mean families could take more control over the help given to elderly relatives, and find the right carer to meet their needs.

Those behind the idea include an NHS advisor, with £1.3m investment in the scheme coming from investors, including the head of food delivery giant Just Eat.

Once rolled out, the new venture will guarantee a carer to a patient’s front door or hospital bed within four hours, they said, helping to reduce delays currently suffered by those in need of care.

It comes amid a growing crisis in social care, and fears the NHS is facing its toughest winter yet, because of record levels of hospital occupancy and bed blocking.

Dr Ben Maruthappu, a junior doctor and recent advisor to NHS chief executive Simon Stevens, said  he experienced issues with the sector first hand, when he struggled to find the right care for his own mother, after she suffered a fracture.

“It can be a real struggle, and sometimes a total nightmare to navigate the system and to find the right care for relatives, “ he said.

“Digital technology has changed so many aspects of our lives – how we order food, books, hail a cab or even dating – yet when it comes to the really important aspect of our lives, we often don’t get the help we need,” Dr Maruthappu said.

The company, called Cera, is also trialling artificial intelligence, with alerts raised when patients show early signs of illness or failure to eat properly, and links to gadgets in the home which can help to monitor pensioners.

The junior doctor said technology was needed to help families cope with the complexity of organising care for loved ones, on top of busy working lives.

“Often elderly people can suffer from multiple conditions, and end up needing carers three or four times a day. No carer works seven days a week so you need a system which responds flexibly to what people want, and to the hours people can work,” he said.

The service aims to become increasingly personalised, so that at first clients can book according to the type of care needs, such as dementia, or request particular languages, while in time it will develop personality matching.

“We don’t want care to become a commodity,” Dr Maruthappu said.“This kind of work is very personal and intimate, and it’s really important to find the right person.”

The service will allow relatives to log on and check the records of their loved one’s care, and receive text alerts letting them know that visits have been completed.