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NHS delivers 10,000 virtual ward beds target with hundreds of thousands of patients treated at home

By October 13, 2023No Comments

The NHS has delivered on its ambition to roll out 10,000 virtual ward beds by the end of September, new figures have shown this week.

More than 240,000 patients have now been treated on virtual wards thanks to the world-leading initiative, with research showing people who are treated at home recover at the same rate or faster than those treated in hospital.

England’s top doctor has praised the work of local NHS teams in introducing 10,421 virtual ward beds for patients who can get expert treatment for illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure or frailty conditions at home.

The ambition was delivered despite considerable pressure on urgent and emergency care – September was the busiest month for ambulance services so far this year with 827,690 calls to 999 and a record September for the most serious ambulance incidents, with 77,553 category one callouts.

Last month was also the busiest ever September for A&E staff with 2,165,741 attendances, up almost 8% on the same month last year (2,008,489 in September 2022) and 522,000 emergency admissions last month, up 7.1% on September last year.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “Our world-leading virtual ward programme is a huge leap forward in the way the NHS treats patients enabling them to receive hospital-level care in their own home.

“The NHS is embracing the latest technology, with regular check-ins from local clinicians in daily ‘ward rounds’ while freeing up hospital beds for those that need them most – it is testament to the hard work and dedication of NHS staff across the country that we have delivered on our target and rolled out more than 10,000 virtual ward beds by the end of September.

Virtual wards allow patients to get hospital-level care at home safely and in familiar surroundings closer to family, friends, and carers, helping speed up their recovery while freeing up hospital beds for patients that need them most.

Patients are cared for by clinicians who can provide a range of different types of care, including blood tests, prescribing medication, or administering fluids through an IV drip. They are reviewed daily with a home or virtual visit as part of the ‘ward round’, as well as the use of technology like apps, wearables, and other medical devices so staff can easily check in and monitor their recovery.