We want every specialty in our hospitals to offer an appropriate level of virtual care.

This will include offering a virtual ward service to appropriate patients or ensuring that a significant proportion of outpatient appointments are delivered virtually.

James Halstead, one of our Consultant Surgeons told us:

“We’ve been impressed at how well our established Elderly Care Virtual Ward works here at the Trust and with partners in primary and social care across the district.

We now want to look at expanding the use of the virtual ward so that every major clinical speciality in the Trust has the opportunity to use it for their clinically suitable patients.

So I’m leading a work programme to do this and will encourage my clinical colleagues to contribute to new ways of caring for patients in their own homes. We will use innovative clinical approaches and Information Technology and will coordinate care centrally through a dedicated virtual ward team.”

“We’re very clear that we want these new ways of looking after people to be developed by Doctors, Nurses and Allied Health Professionals to ensure that virtual services work well and deliver high standards of care.

My own speciality, General Surgery, has recently begun to care for patients using our own virtual ward and we’ll help colleagues do the same in their specialties”.

Traditional models of care for inpatients follow a pathway similar to the diagram set out below:

Traditional models of care

We want all specialities to deliver their services virtually where clinically appropriate so that we can avoid unnecessary hospital admissions or provide early supported discharge for our patients.  To do this we will look to expand the use of our existing virtual ward so that it covers the entire Trust. This will mean that care pathways closely resemble this diagram:

Care pathways diagram

Here, hospital admission has been avoided as the patient is “admitted” to a virtual ward and stays at home to receive their care, receiving visits from healthcare professionals and often having key indicators (such as blood oxygen levels) monitored remotely.

Where it has been clinically appropriate to admit a patient to hospital, we still want our patients, once they are well enough, to be able to go home sooner but remain under the care of our virtual ward.

Once again, the patient will receive regular visits from healthcare professionals and may have their key health indicators monitored remotely. The process is like this:

Supported earlier discharge

Outpatients across all specialties

Professor Rachel Pilling, Consultant Ophthalmologist is keen to tell us about the potential impact of virtual services on the way we deliver outpatient appointments.

“One of the most obvious ways to use virtual services is to undertake outpatient appointments by telephone or video call. Feedback from patients has been good and I’ve spoken to a lot of my colleagues about their use of video appointments, I was impressed by how many were using them and how many thought they were really useful.”

Patients have also given us feedback about virtual appointments. Many were hugely supportive.

It’s true that when we first started doing video and phone appointments it was through necessity because of the pandemic, but we’re now looking to make these kinds of appointments the norm. So we’ve given some thought to what a clinician’s workspace would look like if they were running a video or phone call clinic”.

“We know that many clinicians and patients will want or will need to have their initial patient assessments through a face-to-face appointment and these will remain.

However, we aim to ensure that the vast majority of follow-up outpatient appointments will be virtual.

Whichever methods we choose we will work closely with patients and healthcare professionals to ensure that the services we provide are right for them”.

Redesign models of careRedesign models of care

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