The NHS’ ambition to roll out 10,000 virtual ward beds by the end of September has been achieved, according to the latest figures from NHS England.

At the start of the year, the NHS announced its plans to significantly expand its virtual ward offering. It planned to reach 50,000 patients a month, through the creation of an additional 10,000 virtual ward beds.

To date, more than 240,000 patients have been treated on a virtual ward, with health outcomes proven by research to be the same as, or faster, for patients’ recovery compared to those in hospitals. There has been a total of 10,421 virtual ward beds created for patients requiring expert treatment for a range of illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure and frailty conditions.

The achievement is one to be celebrated – not least because recent months have seen record-breaking numbers in the NHS as well as industrial action. Ambulance services experienced a record September for the most serious ambulance incidents, while A&E staff saw an increase of 8% in attendance, compared to September 2022.

In August there were six days of industrial action, with a further four days in September.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “Our world-leading virtual ward programme is a huge leap forward in the way the NHS treats patients enabling them to receive hospital-level care in their own home.

“The NHS is embracing the latest technology, with regular check-ins from local clinicians in daily ‘ward rounds’ while freeing up hospital beds for those that need them most – it is testament to the hard work and dedication of NHS staff across the country that we have delivered on our target and rolled out more than 10,000 virtual ward beds by the end of September.”

Virtual wards allow patients to receive the same level of care as they would receive in hospitals, but delivered at their own homes. Not only does this help many patients to recover more quickly, but it also frees up hospital beds for those who need them the most.

Virtual ward rounds ensure patients are reviewed daily, and the use of technology such as apps, wearables and medical devices, means that healthcare staff can remotely monitor their patients closely.

In July this year NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard confirmed that the virtual ward service was to be extended to include child patients too.