What do you know about virtual wards?

Virtual wards allow patients to get the care they need, at home, safely and conveniently, rather than being in hospital and can be made up of tech and non tech enabled wards as described below. 

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 and also acute services. 

Patients can be referred into a virtual ward from the community to help avoid an admission or they can referred as part of an early discharge following an in-patient stay. 

The future.. 

To enable the introduction of virtual wards the NHS is investing up to £450 million over the next two years to support the roll out of virtual wards across England, with an ambition to establish 40-50 virtual ward beds per 100k population, by December 2023.  

In the Northwest this will create an additional 2745 virtual beds by April 2024 providing quality care to patients at home, improving the patient’s and staff experiences, and avoiding the need to be in hospital. 

What’s happening now… 

With continued winter / COVID pressures and the demand for services remaining high the NHS frontline is under considerable pressure; NHS England have just issued a letter on winter plans advising local systems on steps they should be taking to increase the ‘capacity and operational resilience’ of services this winter.   

One recommendation is to ‘reduce hospital occupancy through increasing capacity by the equivalent of at least 7,000 general and acute beds.’ Some of these will be physical beds, and some virtual, meaning a continued commitment to virtual wards and new ways of working where we can optimise digital solutions to provide innovative care to our patients, out of hospital.   

There are currently 23 virtual wards established across the region with circa 200+ patients per month being treated for different conditions including Covid-19, heart failure, respiratory conditions and frailty.  

Find out more… 

The NHS England website has developed a repository of videos, guidance and case studies NHS England » Virtual wards.   

In addition, there are a series of virtual practical sessions available to share best practice and lessons learnt; Recent recordings of the Communities of Practice events and clinical summit webinars can be found on the Virtual Ward Future NHS page alongside other supporting resources.   

Or, why not join the next summit aimed at supporting clinicians and wider teams to deliver or develop their virtual wards? Register now using the following link: https://www.events.england.nhs.uk/events/virtual-wards-clinical-summit-63456554bf56da  

Who to contact… 

For further information and general advice, please email england.virtualward@nhs.net or you local NW Regional team on england.nwathome@nhs.net