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Patients receive monitoring and care in their own homes through virtual ward service

Date: 8 July 2024

An innovative out-of-hours monitoring service, has been launched in Suffolk and north east Essex.

Photo of CallEEAST staff

An innovative out-of-hours monitoring service, allowing patients to receive hospital level care in their homes, has been launched in Suffolk and north east Essex.

The service, the first of its kind in the UK, reduces admissions to emergency departments, calls to 999 or 111 services, and the need for patients to remain in acute hospital wards unnecessarily, while ensuring they can access the care they need.

In a recent trial 98.5% of patients said they were satisfied with their monitoring and care.

The virtual ward out-of-hours monitoring service has been created through a partnership with the NHS Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board (ICB) and the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST).

It monitors patients who are well enough to remain at home but still need support and care.

Patients can have their vital signs such as their heart rate monitored remotely, and also have an SOS button for emergencies. They can also contact the team with any queries related to their condition or clinical equipment.

A multi-disciplinary team of nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists carry out daily ‘ward rounds’ to check in on patients.

The virtual ward service currently supports over 150 beds across the Suffolk and north East Essex ICB region, with multiple clinical pathways, and the new service extends monitoring to allow 24/7 cover.

The virtual ward out of hours monitoring service has been commissioned by the ICB though CallEEAST, the ambulance service’s commercial wing.

Call EEAST provides overnight monitoring and contact services and can escalate any patient concerns or issues through the service’s internal Clinical Assessment Service.

Andrew Gay, Head of Commercial Services at EEAST, said:

"The ambulance service is usually associated with pre-hospital emergency care, but we also have a role to play in helping people stay well and avoid preventable returns to hospital.

"Virtual wards are a big step forward: we are delivering outstanding hospital-level care to people in their own homes and helping free ambulance resources for our very sickest patients."

Medical Director at the Suffolk and North East Essex ICB, Dr Andrew Kelso, said:

“Our approach to virtual wards means we can provide a higher level of care for patients while also offering them the comfort and stability of remaining in their own home.

“The virtual ward system also helps to prioritise hospital beds for people who need them.

“I am really pleased with this innovative approach which means patients have access to other levels of expertise. It is also extremely pleasing to hear that patients have had a good experience with the approach so far.”

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