Number Of Virtual Wards Across The South East Increased

Number Of Virtual Wards Across The South East Increased

Expansion announced as part of National Plan

The number of virtual wards in the South East has continued to grow which will help with the current pressures the NHS is facing.

Between September and December 2022, reported bed capacity for virtual wards in the Southeast increased by 36% – from 803 to 1,090, with 57 virtual wards established to date.

From the beginning of the program in April 2022 to December 2022, more than 14,000 people have been admitted to a virtual station.

The focus on expanding virtual wards is a key part of the new Emergency Care Restoration delivery schedule launched this week. The NHS will expand care outside of the hospital and use opportunities to provide better care in people’s homes. By expanding virtual wards, we will offer patients a better experience, avoid unnecessary admissions and improve discharge. Read the full plan here.

Virtual wards provide hospital-level care, allowing healthcare professionals to support and treat eligible individuals in their own homes who would otherwise be confined to a hospital bed. This allows people to remain in their own homes where they are comfortable or to continue their treatment at home after being hospitalized.

Research has shown that virtual wards improve patient outcomes and patient flow through the broader health and care system by helping prevent avoidable hospital admissions and supporting safe and timely discharge.

In a virtual ward, new technologies including wearable devices, smart devices, oxygen and blood pressure monitors deliver real-time information via apps on a patient’s vital signs to a dedicated remote team of medical professionals. The technology enables healthcare professionals to monitor their condition and direct care and support, either virtually or face-to-face when needed.

Alison Taylor, Medical Director for System Improvement and Professional Standards and Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) for NHS England South East’s Virtual Wards scheme, said: “Virtual wards can improve a patient’s condition and experience by bringing them home treat the care that is right for them at the time.

“We have seen a large number of virtual wards set up and implemented across the South East to ensure patients who can be treated at home are kept away from hospitals, particularly during the winter when higher numbers of patients are hospitalized will.

“Technology allows us to monitor their condition and provide them with the most effective care possible, as well as keeping them safe and away from hospital where we know their condition can deteriorate much faster – NHS staff across the South East are doing a fantastic job Set up virtual wards to provide hospital-grade care and support to patients to ensure they avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.”

Patients and their families benefit from care in a virtual ward and for Ranjit, 90, from Oxford, being cared for and treated in his own home was very important.

Ranjit was transferred to the virtual ward by his advisor after he lost weight and was very weak. He was visited at home by a medical worker who came by motorbike and conducted tests and scanned Ranjit’s heart with equipment and a tablet. Aside from injections for low iron, none of the tests indicated that his health could be improved with treatment and he wanted to stay at home. When his cough worsened, his daughter was able to speak to a doctor and he was put on oxygen and antibiotics, all administered at home by a healthcare professional and the virtual ward team.

His daughter Juthy said: “Father’s world got smaller until he was only in the living room, now his bedroom, but he could be comfortable in his familiar surroundings, with the smells, sights and sounds he loved and his home comforts. We were able to be with him and give him the personal attention he needed. When they scanned his heart it was so amazing to see his heart beating on the tablet.

Old man sitting in chair
Older patients have greater difficulty keeping appointments

“The medical professionals who took care of him were so courteous, explained what was happening with his care, included him in those conversations and treated him with dignity and respect. He was so much happier to be home.

“Being treated at home gave my father the security and peace he wanted.”

Virtual wards are evolving to treat a wider range of conditions that would otherwise be treated in hospital, particularly for frail patients and those with acute respiratory infections.

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