‘Virtual wards’ on the way for Royal Surrey County Hospital patients

By Emily Coady Stemp   |   Local Democracy Reporter   |
Tuesday 31st May 2022 9:05 am
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Virtual wards allowing patients to be treated at home are planned for Guildford’s Royal Surrey County Hospital.

The trust that runs the hospital said a virtual ward for frail adults was in “advanced development” with the first 15-bed ward scheduled for launch in the summer.

A board meeting of the Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust on Thursday (May 26) heard that the ward was not a replacement for nursing home or care at home, but was for people who met the criteria for a hospital bed.

The virtual ward would be overseen by a consultant and have a full team in place including therapists, nursing staff and pharmacists, according to meeting documents.

Health providers across England have been asked to deliver virtual wards at a rate of 40-50 virtual ward beds per 100,000 people by December 2023.

The trust aims to provide the full 52 virtual ward beds by April 2024 in its Guildford and Waverley area.

Documents show there is around £630,000 a year being made available to Guildford and Waverley, with a further £250 million, on a matched funding basis, from 2024/25.

NHS England’s website said: “The NHS is increasingly introducing virtual wards to support people at the place they call home, including care homes.

“In a virtual ward, support can include remote monitoring using apps, technology platforms, wearables and medical devices such as pulse oximeters.”

Matt Jarratt, the trust’s chief operating officer since last month, said because the wards were “very explicitly” for people who met the criteria for a hospital bed, the aim was to reduce hospital admissions in the first place, and did not relate to people who no longer met the criteria for staying in hospital.

He said one of his first priorities was in the role was to “quickly get a handle” on why urgent emergency care timings were deteriorating at the trust.

Meeting documents said that the trust’s national ranking had decreased from 28th place last month to 50th nationally, but that nationally timelines had been “poor” as the acute phase of the pandemic subsided.

The report said: “The urgent and emergency care pathway is extremely challenged.”

Mr Jarratt said he wanted to get to “a position where we’ve got a firm plan for addressing the things that are causing that deterioration”.

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