NHS achieves 10,000 virtual ward beds target
The NHS has delivered on its ambition to roll out 10,000 virtual ward beds by the end of September, according to its latest figures.
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.
More than 240,000 patients have now been treated on virtual wards, with research showing people who are treated at home recover at the same rate or faster than those treated in hospital, the NHS emphasises.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, the 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.
“We know that industrial action is also continuing to pile pressure on services and impact capacity adding a lot of pressure to hospitals before winter, coming on top of high levels of demand with last month seeing more 999 ambulance calls than any month this year as well as the busiest September ever for A&E attendances, up almost eight percent on the same month last year.
“But despite this pressure, it is clear from today’s figures that NHS staff are working incredibly hard to deliver for patients with 10 percent more patients coming off the waiting list in August than the same month before the pandemic.”
The 100,000 virtual wards bed target was set out in the NHS’ 2022/23 priorities. NHS England said it wanted to achieve this figure by December 2023, which has now been met.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay added: “Thousands of patients have benefitted from the NHS’s ‘hospitals at home’, which give them the opportunity to recover in the comfort of their own homes while being monitored remotely by clinical staff. This approach, also known as ‘virtual wards’, has been shown to benefit patients and eases pressure on the NHS by freeing up hospital beds.
“We have delivered on our promise to roll out 10,000 hospital-at-home places by winter – a key target in our Urgent and Emergency Care Recovery Plan and a testament to the hard work of NHS staff.
“These ‘hospitals at home’ will speed up recovery times for patients and help cut waiting lists.”