Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust saved an estimated 959 bed days in the first six months of a virtual ward service, according to analysis by the trust.

Virtual wards were launched in partnership with Inhealthcare in November 2023 to provide an alternative to admission or enable earlier discharge for patients who are stable enough for remote monitoring.

The virtual service allows patients or their caregivers to take physiological measurements, such as blood pressure, respiration rate and oxygen saturation, and securely transmit the readings to care teams via mobile app, text message or phone.

Care teams have a single, centralised view of patient data to support clinical decision-making and are alerted to enable early intervention if any readings fall out of range.

Between November 2023 and April 2024, 176 patients used the virtual wards, making an estimated efficiency saving of £372,000.

The internal analysis by the trust also found that average length of patient stay has been reduced by five days.

Abigail Uttley, service manager at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “While developing a service that is directly assisting the NHS with the crisis of over-occupied beds, it has been rewarding to see our remote monitoring virtual wards come to life, enabling patients to be cared for in their own homes with the safety of technology.”

The first six virtual wards pathways are taking place within abdominal medicine and surgery and oncology.

Adam Peckham-Cooper, lead consultant for emergency general surgery, said: “We have for many years held on to a varied set of patients in hospital beds awaiting investigations, interventions or just for ongoing observation.

“By using the bespoke pathways, we have managed to facilitate earlier discharges and streamline ambulatory care of patients, vastly improving patient experiences.”

Alessia D’Angelo, senior sister for remote monitoring virtual wards, said that the technology “proves invaluable during hospital admissions, providing recent observations to aid decision-making”.

“Remote monitoring provides a crucial safety net when in-person appointments are unfeasible, enabling patients to share recent health readings for informed care decisions outside normal hours,” D’Angelo added.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust plans to expand the service to add six more pathways for patients with vascular, neurological and pancreatic conditions, with a phased approach over summer and autumn 2024.

Bryn Sage, chief executive of Inhealthcare, said: “Our technology aims to reduce admissions, speed up discharge and ease pressure on hospital beds and emergency departments.”

Inhealthcare announced in December 2023 that it had won an NHS contract to develop and expand virtual wards across Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, and Wakefield, following a central West Yorkshire procurement.

In May 2024, NHS England announced plans to increase access to virtual wards in a bid to cut avoidable hospital admissions and reduce emergency department waiting times.

An analysis of the effectiveness of virtual wards in south east England, published by NHSE on 16 May 2024, found that black and ethnic minority people were underrepresented in patient cohorts.