Background The purpose of the palliative care Virtual Ward is to provide safe care in the patient’s usual place of residence. The aim is to avoid admission into acute hospitals where appropriate or support faster discharges back home. This will be facilitated using face-to-face visits and the use of digital technology, supported by a multi-disciplinary team.
Aims To offer a flexible and responsive service providing 10 virtual ward beds, to improve patient experience by supporting people in their preferred place of care and death.
Methods A Standard Operating Procedure was produced and shared internally and externally to consider an unmet need within the community. New posts have been created and recruited to, developing opportunities and education within the existing hospice services. Initial pilot January-March 2023, maximum two patients via internal referrals. Following the pilot, the Virtual Ward was opened in April, accepting referrals who meet the criteria. The service has produced information leaflets and posters to inform and advertise. A dedicated telephone number is supported 24/7.
Results The feedback has been positive, patients reported feeling supported, content to remain at home, symptoms well managed with a responsive service. All patients have avoided acute admission, supporting patients in their preferred place of care and death. The outcomes are measured and collected through SystmOne, with a quarterly report including patient and professional feedback. This has been enabled by successfully collaborating with wider community teams to improve communication and joined up care. Evidence and activity collected fortnightly submitted to NHS England.
Next steps The qualitative data shows improved patient outcomes to provide a responsive, inclusive, joined-up approach for our palliative and end of life care patients. The intention would be that quantitative data would evidence cost effectiveness to avoid acute admissions to support patients’ wishes.
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