Patients being treated in ‘virtual hospital wards’ in Cornwall are said to have have saved more than 3,000 acute bed days in January alone.

Hospital care being provided to people in their own homes is something that was first started by the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust during the pandemic, and has grown since.

Now around ten patients every day are being referred to the trust’s ‘virtual wards’, with up 212 people being treated at any one time.

With teams across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly seeing 321 new admissions in just January, the trust said this saved 3,000 acute hospital bed days.

What is a virtual ward?

Virtual wards support people whose acute respiratory or frailty condition could be managed in their own home, instead of in hospital.

However, a virtual ward does not mean virtual care. When needed, clinicians carry out face-to-face treatments and diagnostics in a patient's own home.

The multi-disciplinary team offer daily phone calls. The service also provides remote monitoring and regular reviews by medical and pharmacy teams.

Falmouth Packet: A virtual wards nurse reporting a patient's observationsA virtual wards nurse reporting a patient's observations (Image: Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust)

Barbara Bennett, from Redruth, suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). She chose to be admitted to a virtual ward after developing an acute lung infection.

She believes being treated at home helped ensure she could go away to spend Christmas with her family.

She explained: "I feel as if I've got better at home quicker, because I didn't pick up any other nasty bugs along the way.

“I think if I'd ended up in hospital I would have been a lot more tired. There is a lot of noise in hospital and you don't sleep as well. Being at home, I had the comfort of my own home.

"Yes, I got better quicker and yes, I was able to go away for Christmas and New Year. I was able to celebrate with my son, daughter and beautiful granddaughter."

Nurse Claire Bettison is the Trust's operational lead for digital health, who believes there are many benefits for patients.

She said: "If you are in your own home, you can carry on with your social connections. If you live with your partner or other half and you are in hospital, sometimes trying to get to and from the hospital to visit can be quite restrictive.

“Even little things like conversations with a neighbour are on hold when you are in hospital. However, we know all of that is important for a patient's recovery.

"As well as that social element, patients being cared for in their own homes can eat the food they are used to eating. There is nowhere like your own bed to get a good night's sleep. It is familiar. It is comfortable. All of that really helps with recovery.

"It is also good for the person to have that choice. This is a choice that was not there before, and it is really important patients are active in their care and make their own choices."