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July 10, 2023

Hospital at Home: Providing care to patients in the place they call home

Plans are underway to increase the number of patients who can safely get the care they need in the place they call home and away from hospital.

Hospital at Home, sometimes known as virtual wards, uses wireless technology that allows clinicians to monitor the conditions of individual patients from their community hub.

Patients are provided with an armband that is worn throughout the day to monitor their readings, which are then fed back to clinical teams through a tablet device.

The service provides several benefits for patients who are deemed suitable to use it:

  • Patients can stay in the comfort of their own home
  • An alternative to hospital admission
  • Close monitoring of conditions by hospital staff
  • Faster recovery and improved mental wellbeing
  • Greater independence
  • Return home from hospital sooner

If the data shows a patient’s condition is worsening, clinicians can quickly act to provide the appropriate care.

Multidisciplinary teams ensure people receive high quality care, including senior clinical reviews, the use of tried-and-tested monitoring devices, clinical advice, smartphones and other technology. Healthcare professionals may also visit a patient’s home to provide face-to-face care.

William ‘Richard’ Gray was one of the first patients in Bolton to use the service after experiencing a heart condition in early 2023. Richard said:

I had a cardiac arrest following a heart attack and I needed to go into hospital. When I was ready to be discharged the hospital needed to continue to monitor how I was getting on. I was lying in hospital connected to the machines and that was all I was doing, there was no treatment needed, they just needed to keep an eye on me.

“They asked if I wanted to go home and take part in the virtual wards scheme, they described what it entailed, and I was more than happy to. I’d rather be lying in bed at home than in bed at hospital.

“I was handed a band to wear on my arm and the monitoring took care of everything. It was just like wearing a watch. Occasionally I would need blood tests so a couple of nurses would still visit me to make sure I was alright.

Explaining what it meant to be at home, Richard said:

You’ve got your home life available to you, you’re fully mobile and you don’t have to stay in. I could continue to go out to the shops and the bakery, you can live your life as normal. You can have visitors when you want, without having to stick to the hospital visiting hours.

“If you’re eligible to take part, I would say go for it. It’s ideal, it gets you out and away from the hospital environment into your home life where you are happier, and more relaxed and settled.

Richard’s wife, Hazel, said:

It was lovely to have Richard at home and to still be within his company. It made such a difference for me not having to travel into the hospital to visit, it meant we could continue life as normal.

“Life didn’t change and it was nice and comfortable to be at home.

Hospital at Home will be used to review patients under the care of acute medicine, respiratory and frailty.

In its 75th year, the NHS continues its long-standing history of health innovation, which is now more important than ever.

The expansion of virtual wards has meant that thousands of people have been able to receive hospital-level care at the place they call home, whilst reducing pressure on health systems by freeing-up hospital bed space.

Duncan Mayoh, Clinical Lead for Admission Avoidance at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said:

Our focus is to bring patients away from hospital for ongoing holistic care in the comfort of the patient’s home.

“The technology allows us to remotely monitor their condition, complimented with face-to-face visits.

“You can see how much happier patients are. Virtual wards help them to return home sooner whilst at the same time promoting independence and a better quality of life.

For more information about Hospital at Home, visit the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust website.

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