Norwich's new Virtual Ward is up and running - helping more patients to remain safe and well at home, rather than need a hospital bed.
It is run by expert nurses and therapists from Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCH&C) and is a major part of NHS Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group’s YourNorwich programme, to develop and integrate health and care in the community.
Since December, more than 100 patients who were medically stable have been discharged early from hospital and were able to return home, or referred to the virtual ward by their GP rather than needing to go into a hospital.
Once home, they have been looked after by the specialist team of nurses and therapists, usually for between 3-5 days. The patients have received the same level of care and monitoring that they would have received in hospital, which is why it is called a ‘virtual ward’.
One of those patients is Heather Nicholls from Thorpe St Andrew (pictured) who said: “I found the virtual ward really helped me, it makes a big difference being able to come home to my husband, and we’ve also got a number we can call if we have any problems, which is really reassuring.
“It was really helpful to have the nurses and physiotherapists coming in every day, and we thought it was a really good service.”
Rosie Salmon, an Occupational Therapist with the virtual ward team, said: “It’s fantastic that the virtual ward is already making such a difference to our patients.
“Not only does it mean they can return to the comfort of their own home more quickly, but also keeps hospital beds free for those in the greatest clinical need.”
Now Heather and husband Bryan are looking forward to celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary together later this month
Bryan said: “It was great to get her home as it was a long time for us to be apart, and it has made a big difference to her as she is much more comfortable in her own surroundings.”
NCH&C’s staff have called the new virtual ward service “Alder HomeWard”.
As well as enabling people to leave Alder Ward sooner, it has meant there is more space at Norwich Community Hospital for patients to recuperate after their treatment at the Norfolk and Norwich Community Hospital.
The Virtual Ward has also taken its first 'step-up' patient – someone whose GP would otherwise have had to refer them to hospital – and also patients directly from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
Dr David Goldser, from NHS Norwich CCG said: “If we provide our patients with faster, more intensive support at home it will help them to recover more quickly. It means there is a better chance that they can get back to normal after a hospital admission.”
John Mallett, NCH&C’s Assistant Director of Integrated Care in Norwich, said: “This exciting initiative is helping people to return home from hospital sooner. We know that people prefer to receive care in their own homes wherever possible, so I’m delighted that as part of this pilot we have already been able to help so many people to leave hospital and to access the care they need in the comfort of their own homes.”
Other YourNorwich schemes which are being introduced so far include:
- A volunteer patient support scheme which will be run by Age UK Norwich
- Additional community heart failure nurse specialists from April 2015
- A website which helps patients find local help provided by voluntary organisations working in Norwich
- A sleep service provided by NANSA, the Norfolk and Norwich Scope Association for families of children who have disabilities and profound sleeping issues.