Success of Virtual Ward for respiratory patients

Respiratory Consultant Dr Sundari Ampikaipakan has presented at two conferences showcasing service development and efficiencies made by using the Virtual Ward to manage respiratory patients.

Our Virtual Ward was set up in February 2021 primarily for Covid-19 patients. Dr Ampi was one of the early adopters of the service.  She has been the lead for respiratory medicine on the ward and has been an advocate of using it to help manage patients in their own homes.

In a retrospective review Dr Ampi has found that since it launched, 23% of patients cared for on the Virtual Ward have been referred by the respiratory department. As our second busiest inpatient department, this has made a substantial impact on freeing up beds in the hospital, as well as cost savings. Between February 2021 and February 2023, 484 respiratory patients were cared for on the Virtual Ward, saving more than 3200 bed days and saving the Trust approximately half a million pounds.

Dr Ampi recently presented these findings at the British Thoracic Society. Earlier this year she also spoke to more than 150 delegates at the European Respiratory Society conference in Milan, the largest gathering of respiratory professionals held in the world.

The respiratory department has evolved the service they can provide under the Virtual Ward. Oxygen and bronchiectasis nurses provide specialist input virtually. Patients who need oxygen, nebulisers or intravenous antibiotics can now manage this at home because they are monitored daily. Technology alerts the team to any potential concerns, and patients are contacted by video call or telephone to discuss how they are.

Dr Sundari Ampi said: “I was really pleased to be able to share that respiratory medicine is one of the specialities to be most successful in using the Virtual Ward for supporting medical management at home. Almost a quarter of all the patients going to the Virtual Ward are respiratory patients. We’ve found it’s a safe and effective way to manage our patients.”

She added: “As long as you select the right patients, they all love it, because they’d much rather be home, knowing they have access to us. For respiratory patients with long term health conditions, the longer they stay in hospital the risk of deconditioning is greater, as is the risk of further infections. The sooner we can get them home, the better. It’s a real positive in trying to ensure patients remain active and mobile.”

Around 10% of respiratory patients who are placed under the care of the ward have been transferred back into a hospital ward.

Dr Ampi credited the entire Virtual Ward nursing team for the success: “They are such an engaged group of nurses, the hospital couldn’t run the Virtual Ward without the team we have. They are proactive, they’re enthusiastic. They are such a tremendous team.”

“The NNUH virtual ward continues to be a key element in managing pressures on the hospital.  Futures collaborations will focus on working closely with community partners.  It’s great to see the hard work done by Dr Ampi and the team being shared so widely,” said Chief Digital Information Officer, Dr Ed Prosser-Snelling