Patients say they are happier, healthier and more active on a ‘virtual ward’ in their own home

NHS virtual wards across south west London are changing the way that some patients recover from hospital treatment at home.

Hospital clinicians can now send carefully assessed and low-risk patients home with easy-to-use equipment that can monitor their vital signs, feeding them back to a specialist team in hospital. 

Patients say that they are happier, feel healthier and are more active after leaving hospital. They also feel they have more control in managing their health.

Consultant physiotherapist Salina Harvey-Porter who leads the respiratory virtual ward at Kingston Hospital explained how this revolutionary concept is revitalising patient care while freeing up hospital beds for more urgent cases.

“Virtual wards started up in the middle of covid to take the immediate pressure off acute beds., with low-risk patients constantly monitored in their own homes instead of a hospital bed by a specialist team of hospital staff.

“They were so successful that NHS England identified the virtual ward project as something they want to grow.

“Here at Kingston and Richmond, we have had 20 patients on the virtual ward to date but we screen fifty patients every day throughout the entire hospital to make sure that we are getting only the right patients.

“Our patients say they love the virtual ward because they can go home, drink their own tea, they’ve got their own pillows and duvets.

“Patients are selected onto the virtual ward after undergoing careful assessment by a team of specialists. Not everyone is eligible or well enough to be monitored from the comfort of their own home.

“Once a patient consents to go onto the ward, a team will show the patient how the monitoring equipment works before they leave the hospital. After the patient is discharged, we do a follow up visit in the patient’s home and make sure that the equipment is working and the patient is happy.

“This service isn’t about us telling the patient that they are going on the virtual ward. This is really about engaging with the patient and them agreeing to go onto the ward if they want to.

“Relatives and carers are all involved in the decision for a patient to be on a virtual ward as they can be an important part of the care at home. We make sure that all carers and relatives are also comfortable using the monitoring kits and can contact us at any time.”

Patients are monitored regularly by hospital staff – contact numbers are provided as well – and are given different programmes of care, just like on a normal ward. In some cases, patients are provided with a wearable device to continuously monitor and report their vital signs while for others checks are done at set times.

The team at Kingston Hospital works closely with GPs, community nurses as well as other health professionals such as physiotherapists and occupational health practitioners, to ensure patients receive the care and support they need.