Our virtual ward keeps patients out of A&E

Clinician with patient at home

Clinician with patient at home

Our Frailty Virtual Ward (also known as hospital at home) is not only keeping older people out of hospital, reducing risks of loss of independence, it’s also helping other patients in need of urgent and emergency care get treated faster.

The latest national A&E figures, published on Thursday 8 February by NHS England, saw the continued improvement of our performance against the target for those who are most seriously ill (Type 1). In January 2024, 50.6 per cent of these patients were treated within four hours, compared to 32.2 per cent in January 2023. This is also an improvement on our January 2020 performance of 49.5 per cent, the last winter before the Covid-19 pandemic.

This has seen us rise from one of the worst performing trusts to the top 25 per cent in England, and we remain on track to meet the national recovery target of 76 per cent for overall A&E performance this March, hitting 74 per cent in January, with the help of PELC, which runs urgent care centres at both our hospitals.

This is despite Queen’s Hospital seeing the largest increase in ambulances between January 2023 and 2024 with over 700 more patients brought to A&E. King George Hospital also saw an increase of almost 200 ambulances.

Matthew Trainer, our Chief Executive, said:

Thanks to the impressive work of teams across our hospitals we have delivered our best Type 1 January performance in five years. 

We still have a long way to go and some people continue to wait too long when we are very busy.

Initiatives such as our Frailty Virtual Ward are providing better care for these patients in an environment more suitable for them and ensuring that those needing emergency care get treated faster in our A&Es.

Our virtual ward has been playing a role in helping to keep frail older people out of A&E, while also reducing unnecessary hospital stays.

Launched in time for the busy winter period, the virtual ward is where patients receive the care they need at home, rather than being in hospital. It is staffed by a range of clinicians including consultants, therapists and nurses from our Trust, and is currently caring for up to 30 patients a day.

As well as those from A&E, patients on our wards who are ready to be discharged home but may need some additional support, can be referred to the virtual ward.

The multi-disciplinary team meets twice daily to discuss patients, who, depending on need, will be visited at home, or have a phone call with the relevant clinician.

Over 200 patients have benefitted so far, with 91 per cent of them rating the service as good or very good.

In December, along with our partner, the North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT), we launched a second virtual ward focusing on patients with acute respiratory infections.

We’re also planning to launch a virtual ward for children and young people this spring; and introduce more digital technology to increase the scope and ability of virtual ward teams to monitor patients at home.

Other initiatives which have contributed to our progress include Same Day Emergency Care departments, to reduce the number of people staying overnight, and improved operational leadership and clinical engagement.

Our on-going improvement, alongside our local healthcare partners, was recently recognised by NHS England.

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