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NHS virtual wards to provide ‘personalised service’ for patients with heart failure

Thousands of patients with heart failure will now get specialist care from home as the NHS expands its virtual wards scheme

Heart failure patients, used to long stays in hospital, are to benefit from a new NHS clinical guideline, asking local health systems to expand their use of virtual wards.

Around 200,000 people a year are diagnosed with heart failure. People living with this long-term condition require significant input from the NHS services, making up 5% of all emergency hospital admissions in the UK attributed to the condition.

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Professor Nick Linker, National Clinical Director for Heart Disease, NHS England said: ‘The expansion of virtual wards for eligible heart failure patients will mean that where clinically appropriate, more people will be able to receive the care and treatment they need from the convenience of their own home and reduce the need for hospital admissions.’

There are around a dozen heart failure virtual wards up and running already, and the Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LUHFT) and Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust (MCFT) are already taking part in the scheme.

Together, the two trusts have supported more than 500 people on virtual wards. Patients are monitored around the clock by skilled clinical staff through home or virtual visits, and they use technology like apps, wearables, and other medical devices, to continually monitor patients’ vital signs.

‘It’s almost like having a doctor on tap,’ said Colette Melia, who was treated on an acute heart failure virtual ward by the trusts. Treatment from a virtual ward is ‘a really personalised service,’ she said.

The clinical staff reviewed her every day over the telephone or by video call. They used tech devices to record ECG readings and she was able to digitally record any symptoms she may be having.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “We have already rolled out 10,000 hospital-at-home places which have benefitted thousands of patients across the country, and the expansion of these state-of-the-art beds will allow people to get the specialist care they need from the comfort of familiar surroundings.’