NHS England has launched an education campaign to support the expansion of virtual wards in the country’s health service.
It has produced guidance on the concept – which involves the use of technology to give patients care in their homes – focused on models developed nationally for treating frailty and acute respiratory infection.
It is also planning to run a series of community practice webinars focused on different types of virtual wards, and clinical summits from the autumn. It is asking clinical teams to propose topics and help shape the content of the latter.
The organisation has also set up a virtual wards network on FutureNHS.
In a blogpost on the subject, Dr Shelagh O’Riordan, consultant community geriatrician at Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust and professional adviser to the community services team at NHS England, said: “There are different models of virtual wards. Some will involve staff working remotely, using technology to monitor the patient in real time, but others are much more like a hospital within the home, providing multidisciplinary care and hospital type interventions such as point of care testing and intravenous therapies, face to face.”
Innovation in care
She added: “Virtual wards and hospital at home services are a great example of the NHS delivering innovation that improves not only people’s health but their experience of care. They enable people to remain in the comfort of their own home, family and friends can visit at a convenient time whilst still receiving the clinical care they would have received in hospital.”
In March NHS England stated an ambition to increase the capacity of virtual wards to 40-50 ‘beds’ per 100,000 population, equivalent to up to 24,000 in all, by the end of next year.