Croydon’s virtual wards provide at home care for patients

It’s normal for patients to miss their home comforts when in hospital and the familiarity of home and having loved ones close can often support the road to recovery. Enabled by Telehealth technology, Croydon’s Rapid Response virtual wards allow some patients to receive hospital monitoring and treatment in the comfort of their home rather than in hospital.

In July 2020 working in partnership through One Croydon which brings together the NHS, social care and voluntary groups, Croydon Health Services NHS Trust (CHS) introduced virtual wards to provide at home care for acutely unwell Covid-19 patients.

Delivered by CHS’ Rapid Response Team, the programme has been expanded to care for patients with other acute long term conditions including Hypertension, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Asthma and Long Covid. Over the past 6 months Croydon has treated nearly 200 patients on virtual wards and saved 1300 hospital bed days. This has enabled residents to get the care they need at home safely and conveniently whilst easing demand on hospital beds for those with more complex conditions.

We sat down with Telehealth Project Lead & Rapid Response Matron, Ritima Pradhan who shared how patients are cared for on virtual wards.

The patient experience

“The Rapid Response’s virtual wards have created a convenient way to deliver care at home and telehealth technology allows us to safely monitor and treat any signs of deterioration safely. The service is allowing us to provide more personalised and efficient care for patients along with preventing admissions and supporting early discharge.”

Patient assessment

“Our patients are initially assessed by clinicians in the community who review if their condition can be managed at home with the help of a small monitoring device and a tablet to communicate with staff. If suitable for virtual ward care, patients are trained how to use the device which sends continuous observations including their breathing, heart rate, skin temperature directly to the Rapid Response team. Patients can record their own blood pressure and weight which is then submitted through their device. This is then reviewed by a clinical team within the Rapid Response Team.”

At home health monitoring

“If there is a sign of health deterioration such as blood pressure rising, the Rapid Response team gets an alert immediately often before the patient realises, they are becoming unwell. Our staff will call the patient over the phone or by video call to talk through any health changes and to decide on the most appropriate next steps.

Within two hours of an alert our Rapid Response team of community nurses, therapists and doctors will visit the patient at home if needed to deliver care. If patients need to come into hospital for further investigation, we’ve created a fast-track pathway to our Same Day Emergency Care or Acute Care of Elderly Service. This allows virtual ward patients to bypass A&E and receive treatment quickly from outpatient departments.”

Eligibility for Croydon’s Rapid Response virtual wards

“Our Rapid Response team assesses patients individually and review referrals from health care professionals e.g., GPs to see if they will benefit from at home monitoring as an alternative to a hospital stay.

Virtual ward patients need to:

  • Live in Croydon borough or be registered with a Croydon GP
  • Aged 18 or over
  • Living in their own home, (including a care home or sheltered accommodation).”

Take a look at some of our virtual ward patient feedback: