How technology is helping to boost bed space
New state-of-the-art technology will see patients with respiratory infections or a flare up of a long-term lung condition across Nottingham and Nottinghamshire monitored from the comfort of their own home rather than in hospital.
Patients who are eligible will be referred to a 'virtual ward' - a safe and efficient alternative to an NHS hospital bed and means patients can be treated in the place they call home.
Virtual wards use technology to support patients who would otherwise be in hospital, to receive the care, monitoring and support they need in the place they call home, which frees up hospital beds for patients who are most in need of acute care.
Patients who are suitable to be referred to a virtual ward will usually have a health concern that needs regular monitoring, such as an acute respiratory infection or a chronic lung condition, but they will not be unwell enough to need a hospital bed and can therefore get the care they need at home safely and conveniently.
Justin Wyatt, Virtual Ward Lead for Sherwood Forest Hospitals said: “After much hard work, preparation, and working together with our health and care partners, we are really excited to be launching the Virtual Ward service for patients with respiratory infections or a flare up of a long-term respiratory infection. The decision to launch a respiratory service is based on our learning from Covid-19 Virtual Wards and will help to support services during the expected rise in respiratory infections over winter. As the service develops it is expected that other virtual wards will come in to service, offering a wide range of virtual ward services to our patients.”
Patients in virtual wards will be supported and monitored on a daily basis using remote monitoring apps, utilising technology platforms and using medical devices such as pulse oximeters, which record vital health data about blood oxygen saturation and pulse rates. Patients can also receive face-to-face care from teams based in the community.
Helen Woodiwiss, Director of Clinical Operations, Digital and Estates at Nottingham CityCare said: “The launch of respiratory virtual wards in Nottingham is an important milestone in keeping patients well in the place they call home. Our community Virtual Wards Team will visit patients to ensure they are regularly monitored remotely and in-person, able to ask questions and provide assurances about managing their condition. This is very positive example of how we’re working collaboratively in Nottingham’s healthcare system to provide true integrated care for our patients.”
Dr Keith Girling, Medical Director at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, said: “We anticipate pressures on our hospitals over winter to heighten demand through our emergency department and also on our bed occupancy. Virtual wards offer us an opportunity to reduce delays to timely patient care by allowing us to release suitable patients to their own home for ongoing care and monitoring. This method won’t be suitable for every patient and patients will be fully assessed before they are put onto the virtual ward, but it could really make a difference for those who are eligible. We know patients recover more quickly in their own environment and we are really excited about the chance to support patients returning home whilst remaining under our care.”
Becky Sutton, Nottinghamshire Healthcare’s Executive Director of Community Health Services, said: “We know that when patients are treated in their own homes it can have a hugely positive impact on their health and wellbeing and that’s why we’re delighted to be rolling out a virtual ward to support patients with respiratory needs. Initially available to patients in the Mid Nottinghamshire area, the virtual ward will support patients with respiratory conditions to be discharged from hospital and continue to receive the same quality of care in the place they call home.
“Alongside the introduction of the respiratory virtual ward, we’re working with our partners to provide virtual wards for frailty, so this is a really exciting time and gives us a real opportunity to work together and deliver improved care for our patients in an environment which will benefit their health and wellbeing.”
Dr Joseph John, Medical Director and Consultant at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals, said: “It is crucial that the NHS moves with the times, and makes the very best use of technology to improve the care we provide for our patients.
“Not everyone requires a hospital stay - our virtual wards will ensure that we can continue to monitor an individual’s health within their home, while at the same time making the very best use of the space we have, particularly during the busier winter months.”
You can find out more about virtual wards in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire on the NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire website here.