As part of the collaboration between three key providers of community health services across Mid and South Essex (MSE), the virtual wards programme has seen some great outcomes for service users over the last year.
The Mid and South Essex Community Collaborative (MSECC), which underpins this new collaborative approach to service provision, is delivered in partnership between Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT), North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) and Provide Community Interest Company (Provide CIC).
Virtual hospitals operate like a physical hospital; it has an Emergency Department (Urgent Community Response teams (UCRT)), and wards (the Frailty Virtual Ward and Respiratory Virtual Ward), into which a patient can be transferred. It is a model of care for people aged 18+ presenting with urgent and complex health and care needs to be supported, monitored and treated in their own homes. Virtual wards does not mean virtual care. People will be treated in person by a clinician, but this care will be at home or at the usual place of residence.
The Urgent Community Response teams (UCRT) acts as the service liaison for referrals into virtual wards, with a single point of access (SPA) and two-hour response time.
Virtual Wards allow safe and optimal care to be provided closer to home, allowing a patient to remain in familiar surroundings, improving their experience of care. Through avoiding admissions to a physical hospital, it not only alleviates the system bed pressures but reduces the risk of infections at a time of high transfer rates.
As of December 2023, the MSECC Virtual Hospital programme consists of 60 Frailty beds, 60 Hospital@Home beds, 30 Respiratory beds, and 30 Adult Mental Health beds.
As part of the reflection of outcomes from the Virtual Wards activity over the past year, some of the below highlighted statistics highlight achievements to date.
- Over 5,000 patients have received hospital-level care in their own home. Working in this way has saved over 32,000 hospital bed days.
- The anticipated trajectory of 172 beds provided across Mid and South Essex also has been exceeded beyond the expected with a total 180 bed capacity.
- Initial ambition of 25% of the Mental Health and Respiratory Virtual Wards Service being enabled by health technology has been exceeded with 30% of the programme now enabled.
- The Frailty Virtual Wards are using innovative ways of working including the trial of Realwear Headsets, which are the Assisted Reality (aR) solution that provides all frontline workers with an industrial strength, hands-free, voice-controlled smart device that allows the health care practitioner to deliver real-time access to clinical experts.
- Point of Care Testing (POCT) is medical testing at or near the site of service user care by specially trained healthcare professionals. These tests typically involve blood and urine testing. The goal of POCT is to collect the specimen and obtain accurate results in a short period of time.
Stephanie Dawe, CEO for Provide Health and Quality Lead for Mid and South Essex Community Collaborative said:
“I am immensely proud of our colleagues that work tirelessly to help support our most vulnerable population. Their kindness, expertise and understanding of our service users’ needs has enabled us to look back at the last year with pride, caring for people in their own homes or places of residence, to improve their care, experiences, and health outcomes.”