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NHSE South East data provides evidence of virtual ward benefits

By May 22, 2024No Comments

A large-scale evaluation of virtual wards in South East England has found the scheme saves money and prevents hospital admissions.

NHS England South East region commissioned an independent evaluation from PPL to fill the critical large-scale evidence gap on virtual wards, offering actionable insights for healthcare providers, policymakers, and researchers.

The evaluation analysed a total of 29 virtual ward pathways in the South East, which equated to 49% of their overall capacity at the time of analysis.

A summarised version of the findings, many of which are positive, can be found below:

  1. Virtual wards in South East England are associated with a positive impact on avoided non-elective (NEL) hospital activity – on average 1 NEL admission ‘avoided’ was shown to be correlated with 2.5 virtual ward admission, with some more mature virtual wards achieving a 1:1 association between the ‘avoided’ NEL admissions and virtual ward activity.
  2. There is evidence of positive net financial benefits associated with the regional virtual ward provision – overall total annualised net benefit of £10.4 million, for the virtual wards analysed.
  3. It is clear that the longer they run, the more likely virtual wards are to show impact, as volumes of admissions going through virtual wards increase, and costs per admission start to fall.
  4. Black and minority ethnic people are consistently underrepresented in virtual ward patient cohorts. However, there are significant gaps in ethnicity data recorded in patient level data.
  5. Core-20 representation in virtual ward patient cohorts is more mixed, however it is more consistently reported.

It is hoped that this data can be replicated in other studies across the country to encourage further implementation of virtual wards. Shortcomings are also important to identify to help improve the virtual ward model in future.

You can read the full report here.

Ben Kemp