As part of a pilot project, ore virtual beds are set to be installed in London homes to meet the increasing need for urgent care this winter.
The Virtual Ward service, which facilitates home care for patients who would otherwise need hospital treatment, will now have 20 “beds” available instead of eight. In the coming weeks, 20 virtual beds will also be added for remote monitoring.
The North Central London Integrated Care System pilot, led by Whittington Health NHS Trust, will expand the service beyond its own patients to support those in the local community.
Its increased capacity means it will be able to care for 20 patients per day and is expected to expand to more than 40 in the future as it rolls out remote monitoring technology.
Patients offered the service are visited by community nurses and other health professionals, while their care is overseen by a counselor.
dr Clare Dollery, Medical Director at Whittington Health NHS Trust, said the team was “delighted” to be working with partners in north London to “safely” prevent patients from needing hospital treatment.
“Hospitals are fundamentally not the best place to care for people who don’t need immediate treatment and we know no one wants to stay in hospital longer than they really need to be.
“The virtual ward service allows patients who do not need to be in the hospital but need some level of support to avoid hospitalization and still receive the treatment they need for their recovery.”
The daughter of one patient who benefited from the service said the team did everything they could to ensure her father was well cared for.
Pauline takes care of her father Edward who has dementia. She said the service was a lot better for him than having to go to the hospital when he contracted a bad infection.
She said: “I’m doing everything to keep my dad out of the hospital, I want to avoid it if I can because he’s comfortable at home and is a lot more independent and mobile than he is in real life, so it’s not easy for him to go to the hospital.
“Vineeth from Whittington Health came to take a urine sample from Dad when he was unwell, although he was only there to provide medical care he even made a snack for Dad when he said he was hungry. Vineeth made sure Dad was fed, cleaned and comfortable, and Vineeth went back to the hospital with the test sample that would have otherwise required him to go to the hospital,” she added.
At University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH), the Trust offers the UCLH [email protected] service.
It offers the service in partnership with North Middlesex University Hospital and Barnet Enfield and Haringey NHS Trusts to patients in Enfield.
The Virtual Ward Service works in partnership with colleagues in the hospital’s Emergency Department, Medical Assessment Unit, Trust’s community teams and Social Services teams in north-central London. It is made up of a “multidisciplinary team” – clinical experts from different fields, including general practitioners, community nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, nurses, health assistants and ambulatory or emergency care consultants.
The service has helped keep more than 20,000 people at home and safely away from beds at Whittington Hospital, freeing those beds for those who need them most.