For a number of years, Watford MP Dean Russell has continually raised the significant role Virtual Hospitals play in supporting the wider healthcare system with efficiency, bed capacity and patient comfort.
This week the Government published a delivery plan to expand virtual wards nationally to accommodate up to 50,000 patients a month, as part of the new plan on recovering urgent and emergency care: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2023/01/major-plan-to-recover-urgent-and-eme…
Watford is proud to host the UK’s first virtual hospital, set up by West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust at Watford General Hospital in 2020 to prevent it from being overwhelmed by the demand for beds for Covid patients. The technology feeds health data from the patient at home to a virtual hospital hub where results are closely monitored by clinicians.
To share best practice, the Health Secretary Steve Barclay MP recently accepted an invitation by Dean Russell MP to meet the team who pioneered the technology to deliver care via virtual wards. Following the visit, Dean asked a Parliamentary question in the House of Commons about rolling out the virtual hospital programme nationally.
Over the previous few years, Dean has raised the invaluable support virtual wards provide as a member of the Health and Social Care Committee, in his endeavour to expand the programme to support hospitals and patients up and down the country.
During an evidence session in 2021, Dean asked the former Chief Executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens, about expanding virtual wards and the use of digital data to enable patient experience to be improved.
In response, Simon highlighted his previous visit to Watford General, who were one of the early adopters of home-based monitoring for Covid patients. More than 5,000 Covid patients have been treated via the Virtual Hospital, saving thousands of ‘bed days’ whilst keeping patients safe. The NHS digital unit will be taking the example of this monitoring to deploy cardiovascular monitoring and other conditions as well.
Amanda Pritchard, the current Chief Executive of the NHS, also agreed wholeheartedly, claiming that home monitoring gives patients more control over their own care.
West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust medical director and consultant cardiologist Dr Niall Keenan said, “We are proud of our pioneering work in virtual wards both in the hospital and with community partners. We have shown that these can make a major impact to clinical care, are safe and are highly acceptable to patients who, in general, would rather be cared for at home than be in hospital. We have embraced the opportunities that new technologies have given us in this area.”
Dean Russell MP commented, “I am proud to see Watford is leading the way in transforming patient care with the use of innovative technology. I have been unapologetic in my campaign for investment in local healthcare services, and I am pleased the Government recognises the invaluable support the Virtual Hospital provides, pioneered right here in Watford.”
Hospitals nationally have faced record demand for NHS services, with the latest data showing more A&E attendances than ever before, growing numbers of the most serious ambulance call outs, and millions of NHS 111 calls a month over winter. For flu alone, more than 5,000 hospital beds a day are being taken up, compared to just 50 this time last year – the highest in a decade.
The Government have therefore published a major two-year delivery plan to recover urgent and emergency care services. Frontline capacity will be boosted further thanks to 800 new ambulances, including 100 specialist mental health vehicles, and 5,000 more sustainable hospital beds backed by a £1 billion dedicated fund.
Notes to editors: West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust have published a video on Virtual Wards here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZZfprv8ZVc