March 6, 2017 / 3:31 PM / 6 months ago

UK online carer-patient matchmaker HomeTouch expands nationwide

LONDON (Reuters) - A British online service that matches elderly and disabled patients with home carers is expanding nationwide by adding another 25,000 care professionals to its database, founder Jamie Wilson said on Monday.

The expansion comes as British government, at both the national and local level, seeks to increase the provision of home care to take the pressure off hospitals run by the state-funded National Health Service in looking after an ageing population.

Finance minister Philip Hammond will announce 1.3 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) of additional funding for social care over two years in his budget statement on Wednesday, according to media reports.

HomeTouch, which is backed by venture capital firm Passion Capital and the Nominate Trust, which invests in digital companies that tackle social problems, enables users to find carers by filtering for skills such as dementia expertise, driving ability or an interest in gardening.

"This business was born out of my frustration as a dementia physician," Wilson said in an interview.

"I saw many, many of my patients and their families reporting that the most troublesome problem for them was finding reliable home care."

He said that home care agencies often pay low wages, resulting in a high turnover of staff and inconsistency in the level of service delivered to patients.

HomeTouch, which includes private health provider Bupa amongst its partners, matches carers directly with patients' families, enabling the professional to manage the relationship and typically earn 50-75 percent more than they would earn through an agency, he said.

The platform uses some of the techniques pioneered by other online marketplaces, he said, such as client reviews, video profiles and advanced search.

HomeTouch takes a 20 percent commission on transactions through the platform, Wilson said, adding that the number of transactions on the site had grown fivefold every year since it launched in 2015.

More than 100,000 hours of care had been contracted on the platform in the third quarter of last year, he said.

HomeTouch's nationwide expansion from its current base in southern England comes after it acquired the database of a rival site for a disclosed amount.

Wilson said the details of the 25,000 carers acquired in the deal will be transferred to the HomeTouch site once they had been fully vetted.

($1 = 0.8157 pounds)

Editing by Greg Mahlich

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