Virtual wards expanding to support more conditions

Virtual wards allow patients to get the care they need at home safely and conveniently, rather than being in hospital.

Virtual wards are already in place in many parts of the country, such as COVID virtual wards. People with other conditions can also be treated in a virtual ward, for example people living with frailty and people with acute respiratory infection.

The NHS is increasingly introducing virtual wards to support people at the place they call home, including care homes. In a virtual ward, support can include remote monitoring using apps, technology platforms, wearables and medical devices such as pulse oximeters. Support may also involve face-to-face care from multi-disciplinary teams based in the community, which is sometimes called Hospital at Home.

In Cheshire and Merseyside for example the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Virtual Ward at Home (COPDVW@H) model is a secondary care led initiative provided by Liverpool Heart and Chest NHS Foundation Trust in collaboration with St Helens and Knowsley NHS Foundation Trust. The aim of the service is to support early and safe discharges for patients with COPD.

The COPD virtual ward implements a multidisciplinary team approach, consisting of Respiratory Specialist Nurses, Registered Nurses, Advanced Practitioners and Consultants to provide clinical oversight. A consultant is allocated each day to undertake the COPDVW@H and discuss the clinical care of patients. A clinician based at Mersey Care undertakes a telephone consultation on days two, three and seven and remote monitor patients daily.

And in East Lancashire there is now a frailty virtual ward with a two-hour community response joint approach.

Across the North West, we are looking to expand virtual ward capacity, as fast and safely as practicable, taking account of local circumstances, workforce availability and existing services, and building on existing virtual wards and digital platforms where these are established.