For as long as we can remember now, patients must travel, whether themselves or by ambulance, to a hospital to be treated or cared for. Patients face a median wait time of 3 hours and 21 minutes in A&E wards and that’s even before considering the number of staff and hospital bed shortages currently present within UK hospitals.
Virtual wards, however, present a potential solution to this growing problem. Many senior professionals are dubbing them as the future of healthcare and possibly the key to solving the issues associated with an ageing population. Nutrix Personnel are firm believes in the potential of virtual wards and it’s why we’re eager to showcase exactly what they are and how they work.
What defines a Virtual Ward?
Put simply, a virtual ward is a means of offering care and support to the local community away from a traditional hospital ward environment. More specifically, it permits patients to receive regular checks and interactions with doctors and nurses in the comfort of their own home.
They’re designed to support people who have long-term health issues but in need of ongoing support. Hospitals are quick to state that these are not a replacement for hospital wards but simply an alternative option to those it may suit. A patient may benefit from the quieter environment and witness reduced stress or a shorter recovery time.
Just as importantly, they free up space on a hospital ward and help public healthcare settings to be more efficient. This means the focus can be solely on offering the best possible care as opposed to organising bed space and rushing patient assessments or treatments.
How are Virtual Wards intended to be utilised?
Just like a regular hospital ward, the priority of a virtual ward is to provide patient’s with the very best care and help them in their recovery journey. Ideally, healthcare professionals such as nurses and carers will do regular home visits as part of working on a virtual ward. This can, however, be further assisted with video calls or phone calls when further support is required.
The NHS is currently trialling virtual wards as an alternative offering of care and the ambition is to deliver virtual ward capacity equivalent to 40 to 50 virtual ward ‘beds’ per 100,000 population by December 2023 (NHS Report). Further ‘bed’ capacity will then be created dependant on the efficient and productive use of existing resources.
Nurses who work on virtual wards will be expected to fulfil similar responsibilities to what they’d traditionally expect such as assessing patients, carrying out regular assessments, administering medication and communicating effectively. The slight difference is patients will also be provided with specific medical technology that allows them to self-monitor and accurately report back things such as heart rate, oxygen levels and blood pressure.
What do Virtual Wards mean for Nurses and Carers?
The experienced team at Nutrix Personnel believe that the introduction of virtual wards will entice more nurses to make the switch to agency work as further flexible working opportunities become available. Virtual wards will offer a new way of working that will require nurses to successfully collaborate to deliver successful care in a new variety of settings.
Carers will also witness a big difference when virtual wards are fully integrated across the UK healthcare sector. The knowledge of an experienced carer is invaluable and could be a crucially desired skill in many nursing positions. This means increased opportunities for carers to progress into nursing could arise as nurses pick up new responsibilities.
What are the benefits of Virtual Wards?
Nutrix Personnel have identified five key benefits to virtual wards and their introduction as a new form of healthcare:
1. Patients receive care in a relaxed environment.
Unlike existing assessment and treatment offerings in a hospital setting, virtual wards permits patients to receive the acute care and support they require in their own home. This has a proven benefit on the recovery time of the patient and their overall comfort throughout.
2. They help to dramatically reduce NHS waiting times.
The target for virtual wards is to deliver urgent patient care at your home within two hours. This will likely help patients to in fact receive treatment faster and avoid spending hours waiting for bed space in a hospital ward.
3. They’re significantly more cost-effective.
Virtual wards require a lot less resources and so therefore save healthcare organisations large sums of money with some studies indicating £1,047 in estimated servings per patient, per day.
4. Hospitals benefit from less congested wards.
Virtual wards will help to create increased bed space and therefore a less congested hospital ward. Patients typically complain of noisy and uncomfortable hospital experiences, but the addition of virtual wards should improve the experiences for both patients and nurses.
5. Patients receive more face-to-face time with Doctors or Nurses.
Arguably the biggest benefit of all is the increased one-to-one attention patients will receive from doctors and nurses alike. Instead of doctors being inundated with patients on a hospital ward, they can give increased focus to those that are most in need of care.
Interested in working on a Virtual Ward?
Nutrix Personnel are actively looking for agency nurses who’s be interested in transitioning to Virtual Wards and offering care to patients both at their home or via video and mobile calls. We have plenty of available vacancies throughout the UK and are hiring immediately.