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Virtual ward leads the way in supporting vulnerable patients at home

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A new community based virtual ward is being piloted in mid Essex - aimed at providing patients with greater support at home when they leave hospital.

The new way of working brings together GPs, social workers, community nursing teams and Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) to support patients in their own home and is based on the success of similar scheme introduced as a part of the response to the COVID-19.

The virtual ward is a way for patients to stay in close contact with all the professionals who may need to be involved in their care – GPs, community matrons, nurse practitioners, AHPs, staff nurses and social workers to support their continued recovery or rehabilitation after a spell in hospital.

The six-month pilot covers the intermediate care service delivered by Provide Community Interest Company (CIC) at Halstead Community Hospital, which supports some of our most vulnerable and frail residents.

Stephanie Dawe, Chief Nurse at Provide CIC explains: “The virtual ward helps us to ensure a safe pathway home for our patients who need additional support.

“We know from what patients tell us they prefer to recover in their own bed with loved ones near, as long as they can feel safe and cared for. And evidence suggests patients are likely to have a faster recovery in a place that is familiar to them.

“With the virtual ward our patients can feel safe and secure knowing they are being monitored by a team of professionals.”

Treating patients at home helps to protect them from the risk of exposure to COVID-19. It also means they are able to maintain close contact with their family who would be restricted from visiting were they to remain in a hospital setting.

The virtual ward concept was first trialled by teams across the Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership to support those recovering for COVID-19 at home or in a community setting to ensure they could treat the increasing numbers of the very sickest patients in hospital.

The community based virtual ward pilot, which launches on Monday 17 May will help the team of doctors, nurses and care professionals to evaluate and develop how they offer intermediate care services into the longer term whilst recognising the ongoing impact of the COVID pandemic.