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NHS virtual wards expand to heart failure patients

Thousands of patients with heart failure will now be treated from home as the NHS expands its world-leading virtual wards scheme. The expansion means people can remain active and maintain their independence in their own home, while undergoing medical treatment.

New NHS clinical guidance published recently asks local health systems to expand their use of virtual wards to include heart failure patients who often spend a lot of time in hospital and can now get specialist care from the comfort of their own homes.

Around 200,000 people a year are diagnosed with heart failure, and people living with the long-term condition requiring significant input from NHS services make up 5% of all emergency hospital admissions in the UK attributed to the condition. The new service offer comes after the NHS hit its target of delivering 10,000 virtual ward beds last month, with more than 240,000 patients treated successfully on virtual wards since April 2022.

The innovative hospital at home service already provides treatment for respiratory issues and frailty and has been shown to reduce recovery times, as well as easing pressure on hospital beds. There are around a dozen heart failure virtual wards up and running, and the Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LUHFT) and Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust (MCFT) are already taking part in the scheme.

Professor Nick Linker, National Clinical Director for Heart Disease, NHS England said: “It’s estimated there are over 900,000 people in the UK living with heart failure, many of whom will require specialist support and management if their condition deteriorates. The expansion of virtual wards for eligible heart failure patients will mean that where clinically appropriate, more people will be able to receive the care and treatment they need from the convenience of their own home and reduce the need for hospital admissions.”

Virtual wards allow patients to get safe hospital-level care in the comfort of their own home, close to their friends and family. Patients are monitored around the clock by highly skilled clinical staff through home or virtual visits, and staff can use technology like apps, wearables, and other medical devices, to continually monitor patients’ vital signs. The team can also provide blood tests, prescribe medication, and administer fluids via an intravenous drip. The scheme not only speeds up recovery times but frees hospital beds for those who need inpatient care.

 

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