Keralite nurse promoting virtual wards scheme within NHS for patients to receive treatment at home
Tuesday 14 March 2023 7:04 AM UTC
LONDON March 14: An Indian-origin nurse working for the UK’s state-funded National Health Service (NHS) is promoting a new scheme of virtual wards, which helps patients get hospital-level care at home and frees up hospital beds for more severe cases.
Nurse Nisha Jose, the clinical team leader at Mersey Care’s Clinical Telehealth Hub, said the programme has completely transformed medical care with much-needed reassurance for patients who yearn for the comfort of their homes when unwell.
The new NHS scheme now involves more than 340 so-called virtual ward programmes across England, including a total of 7,653 virtual beds where medics monitor conditions remotely.
“People yearn for normality and the comfort of home, yet when they get home, they may become worried,” said Nisha Jose.
“With our virtual ward programme, we can do everything that would happen in a hospital ward. We take observations every six hours to identify any issues and we can even carry out ECGs at the patient’s home. It has truly transformed the way we deliver care,” she said.
Her Telehealth Team, run by Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, supports around 2,000 patients a day with conditions like COPD, diabetes and heart failure.
According to latest data, more than 100,000 patients have been treated in NHS virtual wards in the last year, with 16,000 patients treated in January this year alone.
The NHS said its virtual wards scheme allows patients to get hospital-level care at home safely and in familiar surroundings, helping speed up their recovery while freeing up hospital beds for patients that need them most.
“The advantages of virtual wards for both staff and patients have been a real game-changer for the way hospital care is delivered and so it is a huge achievement that more than 100,000 patients have been able to benefit in the last year alone, with the number of beds up by nearly two-thirds in less than a year,” said NHS national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis.
“With up to a fifth of emergency hospital admissions estimated to be avoided through better supporting vulnerable patients at home and in the community, these world-leading programmes are making a real difference, not just to the people they directly benefit but also in reducing pressure on wider services,” he said.
People on a virtual ward are cared for by a multi-skilled team who can provide a range of tests and treatments, including blood tests, prescribing medication or administering fluids through an intravenous drip. These “Hospital at Home” models help reduce avoidable hospital admissions, the NHS said.
Patients are reviewed daily by the clinical team and the “ward round” may involve a home visit or take place through video technology. Many virtual wards use technology like apps, wearables and other medical devices enabling clinical staff to easily check-in and monitor their recovery.
These “innovative” virtual wards are being used as a key part of the NHS urgent and emergency care recovery plan launched at the end of January with a goal of treating up to 50,000 patients a month and patients a month and addressing backlogs in the system.
Sayanthan Ganesaratnam, a GP in Merton said: “As a GP, I work collaboratively with the Hospital at Home team to support patients who are at risk of being admitted to hospital and need step-up care.
“This is beneficial to patients as, rather than going into hospital for potentially lengthy stays, they can stay at home, receive excellent care and be monitored closely in familiar surroundings.
“And should a patient start to feel unwell, there are systems in place to quickly alert a clinician, reducing the possibility of an emergency re-admission.”- PTI
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