Increasing Demand for Virtual Wards & Beds Across UK
Leading the Way with Virtual Wards
Across the UK, the NHS is seeing challenges more than ever before with the ongoing repercussions from the Covid-19 pandemic, increasing costs across the board, and increasing pressures on staffing and resource.
To help combat some of these issues, the Department of Health (DoH) have put a number of targets and key priorities in place for 2023 in which all Trusts are to work towards. One such initiative is the move towards increasing the number of virtual wards and beds across the nation.
The Department of Health initiative for each hospital in England is to create 50 virtual beds by the end of 2023.
By developing these virtual ward services, it is believed this will lead to “significant opportunities for Trusts to improve operational efficiency, save money, and provide a positive patient experience.”
What are Virtual Wards?
Simply put, virtual wards are remote services which help patients to manage their health and care whilst in their home environment, rather than being in hospital.
Examples of Virtual Ward Services
Healthcare services that take place within homes and the community have been in existence for many years. But new technologies and medical innovations are giving patients more options than ever before to receive a vast range of treatments and therapies at home.
Some of these services include:
- OPAT: Outpatient parenteral antimicrobial therapy, for use with patients undergoing such therapies as: long-term antibiotic treatment, chemotherapy, on-going treatment for heart failure
- Community nursingHospital at home
- Virtual frailty wards
- Treatments for patients with acute respiratory infections
There are increasing numbers of examples where virtual wards and services are being successfully set up across the UK, with positive feedback from both NHS staff and patients.
Benefits of Virtual Ward Initiatives and Services
Trusts, clinicians, and patients alike are seeing the benefits of successful virtual ward services. These benefits include:
- Cost savings to Trusts
- Improved operational efficiency
- Reduced bed stays
- Improved Patient Outcomes: With studies suggesting that patients recover quicker in their own home environments and have lower rates of re-admissions.
- Positive impact on patient experience
OPAT Study in Practice
In a recent study with the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH), they introduced the Accufuser Elastomeric Infusion Pump to their OPAT service. With the aim of reducing patient length of stay, deliver bed related savings and promote antimicrobial stewardship.
Over the course of the study 86 patients qualified for the deivce and were discharged to continue their treatment at home.
This released 1,143 bed days, equating to £360,410 cost savings (OUH net saving)
Patient empowerment and education
The successful implementation of a virtual ward service entirely depends on putting patients at the forefront. For patients to be discharged and into the care of virtual ward services, adequate training, education, and patient empowerment needs to in place for the best patient outcomes.
Patients, and their at home care network, need to be educated on such details as;
- Training on any devices they may be taking home with them (such as remote monitoring devices, infusion pumps, etc)
- Signs for concern and when to contact their healthcare provider (infection signs, dislodgement, device issues)
- Good handwashing and infection prevention measures
- Instructions for use, if playing an active role in their treatment.
Are virtual wards here to stay?
With the Covid-19 pandemic, populations across the globe were instructed to ‘stay at home’ to reduce transmissions. With this, the rise in digital services became a vital part of daily life for many industries.
The NHS was of no exceptions to this, as non-essential clinics were reduced and clinicians encouraged to remove services including telephone appointments, online consultations, remote monitoring and more. As the role technology plays continues to grow within clinician and patient everyday use, we see the possibilities and capabilities of these remote services developing into further virtual or remote services.
Ultimately, we anticipate that the demand and use of virtual ward services will only grow in use, as they continue to meet new care demands and help reduce the care backlogs that are a direct consequence of the pandemic.
Vygon Supporting Virtual Wards
Vygon UK supports many UK Trusts in their development and implementation of virtual services. From virtual wards roll out, patient education and providing devices to treat patients requiring antibiotic therapy at home.
We help our customers from initial ideation of their virtual services, to roll out and delivery. Including supporting clinicians and clinical care teams when taking their business case to Board, to assisting with training and support for a successful service implementation.
Here at Vygon, we are fully aligned with the DH OPAT strategy which is fully inline with our offer superior products and financial mechanisms that help our customers deliver high quality, safe care for their patients.
Paul Jackson - Business Unit Manager, Intravascular Therapies
Vygon Products at Home
Follow the links below to find out more about some of the Vygon products that can be used in a virtual ward or homecare setting.
Or, to find out more about how Vygon UK can help your Trust with your virtual ward services, get in touch today.