Plymouth virtual ward occupancy rate over 80% with plans to expand

  • 1 July 2024
Plymouth virtual ward occupancy rate over 80% with plans to expand

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust has confirmed that its virtual ward beds are now over 80% occupied with plans to expand further.

The trust confirmed its plans to increase the number of community virtual ward beds by 30 September 2024, in board papers for its meeting held on 29 May 2024.

“We will expand our community virtual ward offer for the effective planning, assessment and management of patients whom condition deteriorates and/or can be supported back home from our ED and assessment areas,” the board paper stated.

This will increase the trust’s virtual ward beds from 50 to 75, with the aim of reducing admissions by 6,252 a year and reducing 43,764 bed days.

In May, the virtual ward team at the trust celebrated recording its 1,000th virtual ward patient since the service launched in December 2022.

Originally, the target was to have 50 active beds ‘open’ by the beginning of April 2024, however the team reached the target in the autumn of 2023, according to a press release from University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust.

In opening up additional capacity, the team have doubled their workforce and has since seen a month-on-month increase in referral numbers into the service.

The first urology virtual ward pathway went live at the end of April and the team have also begun taking on the end of life emergency department to home pathway.

Heart failure, infective joints and cellulitis virtual ward pathways are currently in development.

Louise Huntley, deputy service line manager for virtual ward and the acute GP service at the trust, said: “We are so proud of what we have been able to achieve in a short space of time.

“Whilst the service is still in its infancy in some respects, we have not relented in our aim to support as many patients as possible, as soon as possible.”

The occupancy rate milestone was highlighted in the agenda of the trust’s board meeting  on 26 June 2024.

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust announced in March 2024 that it had selected Epic as its preferred supplier for a new electronic patient record (EPR) system.

In May 2024, NHS England announced an ambition to increase access to virtual wards which included plans for a virtual wards operational framework, to be produced in the early part of 2024.

An NHSE commissioned evaluation of the effectiveness of virtual wards, published in May 2024, found that black and ethnic minority people are underrepresented in patient cohorts.

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