Patient on a call with a doctor depicting NHS virtual wards

Innovative virtual ward scheme to now cover heart failure patients, NHS England says

Thousands of patients are set to benefit from an expansion to the world-leading virtual ward programme, NHS England has announced.

The move comes after clinical guidance published this week asked local health systems to update their virtual wards to include heart failure patients who spend a lot of time in hospital.

It is estimated that around 200,000 people a year are diagnosed with heart failure – the condition accounts for 5% of all emergency hospital admissions in the UK.

Approximately a dozen of these heart failure virtual wards are already operational, according to the health service.

This includes Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, which, between them, have supported more than 500 people virtually.

The so-called hospital at home service already covers respiratory issues and frailty; last month saw the NHS hit its target of delivering 10,000 virtual beds.

Allowing patients to recover in the comfort of their own home has been shown to speed up recovery times, with the added benefit of freeing up capacity – since April 2022, over 240,000 patients have been successfully treated this way.

NHS England’s national clinical director for heart disease, Professor Nick Linker, said: “It’s estimated there are over 900,000 people in the UK living with heart failure, many of whom will require specialist support and management if their condition deteriorates.”

He continued: “The expansion of virtual wards for eligible heart failure patients will mean that where clinically appropriate, more people will be able to receive the care and treatment they need from the convenience of their own home and reduce the need for hospital admissions.”

“This approach will help speed up recovery times for patients and cut down on unnecessary trips to hospital, easing pressure on the NHS this winter,” added the health secretary, Steve Barclay.

If you want to learn more about how the NHS is harnessing digital innovation to support patients, register for National Health Executive’s Digital Health virtual event.

Image credit: iStock

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NHE May/June 2024

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