Operator Lisa Staples has set up a website – Free NHS Rooms – for publicans to list their rooms so that NHS workers can find living quarters near hospitals.
Three NHS workers have been staying at the Crown Inn, Gayton, Norfolk, for the past few weeks, in rooms that Staples says she “could have booked 10 times over,” given the number of enquiries from key workers.
She explained: “We’re getting calls every day from critical care nurses, ICU nurses and doctors, where they have had to leave their homes to work in a different area but it’s too far for them to travel home or they can't go home because they have to be isolated from their family.
“They are in desperate need of places to stay.”
Staples said: “For those that can, I would definitely say do it because you never know, you might find yourself in hospital.
“These people do so much good you have to try and help where you can. Nobody’s travelling at this time so if you have spare rooms, why not use them and hopefully it might help speed this thing up and get rid of it?”
She added: “It helps us, we don’t live on-site so therefore if there’s activity going on upstairs such as the lights going on in the evenings and at various times, it helps with security.”
Victor Buchanan runs the White Swan Inn in Pickering, North Yorkshire, and is offering nine of his rooms to key workers through Lisa Staple’s website.
The rooms are situated outside and accessible without needing to go through the main building, as well as being subject to a six-day cycle between guests to ensure any potential traces of coronavirus do not remain.
Buchanan has found one worker to take a room so far but predicts that as city centre venues fill up, rural venues like his will see more interest as cases of the virus rise.
The rooms will be deep cleaned with personal protective equipment (PPE) used. He said: “We want to be super safe and we don’t want to put our staff at any risk.”
An external function has been kitted out with extra furniture, a microwave and fridge. “My chef has been making fun of me because one of my golden rules is I won't allow a microwave in the place,” the operator said.
The publican believes that the hospitality business must do its bit to help out front-line workers.
“We’re lucky, the hospitality business might not feel it right now but we were the first to get a [Government] deal, and we should put something back.
“I’d rather be in charge of running an empty hotel than front-line NHS. They’re our generation’s equivalent of the soldiers who go to war.
“Sitting on an empty room is a selfish act. It’s a simple charity to manage, all it costs us is a bit of heating really.”
St Austell Brewery has given its 33-bedroom hotel in Truro, Cornwall, to workers at the city’s hospital.
The County Arms has been made available to the NHS procurement team to allocate bedrooms, in addition to free use of the hotel’s car park.
The brewery installed a keypad entry system so that shift workers can come and go as needed.
Steve Worrall, managing director of St Austell Brewery’s pubs, inns and hotels, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer the 33 rooms at the County Arms to NHS workers – whether it is for an overnight stay, or simply to use the bathroom facilities after a long shift.
“We are minutes away from Treliske Hospital and it’s the least we can do to support our friends at the hospital.”
Six rooms at the Wayfarer Inn, situated in Instow, north Devon, have been booked by NHS and care home workers for as long as they need.
Operator Chris Hopkins said, as a key worker himself in another trade, he knew what it was like trying to find a safe place to stay. He said: “It can be a bit of a nightmare.”
The pub has accommodated these workers by setting up a separate breakfast area with fridges and upping its hand sanitiser provision. His advice to others is: “Be overly cautious, give everyone plenty of space, make sure it’s clean and give them the facilities to keep that up.”
Hopkins has even lent his own caravan to a local police officer, who has been sleeping in it on his drive so he can still remain close to his children.
The operator said: “It’s all about the community at the moment, it's not every man for himself. We’re all in this together, everyone should help out where they can.”