Virtual wards allow patients to get the care they need at home safely and conveniently, rather than being in hospital.
Virtual wards are 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.
Dr Shelagh O’Riordan, Consultant Community Geriatrician and Professional Advisor at NHS England shares her tips for clinical teams setting up a frailty virtual ward in this blog.
This film shows a virtual ward in action at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust:
To support Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) and service providers to establish or expand virtual wards, guidance for two high priority pathways have been produced – acute respiratory infection virtual wards and Hospital at Home for those with frailty.
Resources for systems and healthcare professionals
- Supporting information for ICS leads: Enablers for success: virtual wards including hospital at home
- Supporting guidance on maximising the roll-out of virtual wards, including Hospital at Home. This guidance supports implementation and covers definitions, principles, funding and staffing
- Guidance on introducing and expanding acute respiratory infection virtual ward. This includes definitions, entry criteria and patient pathways
- Guidance on introducing or expanding Hospital at Home virtual wards for people living with frailty. This includes definitions, entry criteria and patient pathways
- Guidance on how to set up a technology-enabled virtual ward using a digital platform such as an app or website, is available on the NHSX website
- Guidance focusing on information governance, to support information governance teams, healthcare professionals, and people and those who care for them
- New e-learning to help clinicians gain an understanding of implementing and running a virtual ward that is enabled by technology
- NHS Digital Centre of Excellence resources for virtual wards
- Exploring the work of older people and their informal caregivers in managing an acute health event in a Hospital at Home setting
Network and further information
- Join the NHSFutures virtual wards space
- Join the virtual wards community of practice events by emailing our team
- Blog from Tara Donnelly, Director of Digital Care Models and Matthew Winn, NHS England on NHS providers
- Additional materials on virtual wards including case studies, training materials, academic health science networks and patient safety collaborative contacts are available on the virtual ward NHS Futures platform (login required)
- The Hospital at Home Society
- Hospital discharge and community support: policy and operating model from the Department of Health and Social Care
- Health Education England’s multi-professional framework for advanced clinical practice in England
- Home care: delivering personal care and practical support to older people living in their own homes – written by NICE
- Frailty e-learning module
- Providing rapid care to people in their own home rather than going to hospital, through a frailty virtual ward in Leeds
- Supporting people living with frailty in Hull and East Riding
- Virtual wards empower the people we care for in East Kent
- Case studies on technology enabled virtual wards and information on digital platforms supporting virtual wards is available on the Innovation Collaborative FutureNHS platform (login required)