The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust is thrilled to announce the launch of the UK’s first Complex Nutrition Virtual Ward program, based at Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley.
The virtual ward programme is designed to support the earlier discharge of patients. In this case, it supports those with known nutritional difficulties, including patients with intestinal failure or any external devices such as feeding tubes or bags.
Patients who would otherwise be treated in hospital, are able to be treated in their homes, enabling earlier supported discharge and reduce admissions, all whilst maintaining specialist care. Early objective data has so far shown that 261 bed days have been saved since the creation of the Complex Nutrition Virtual Ward, which soft launched in January 2023.
Patients who are suitable for the virtual ward programme will go home with an ‘easy to transport’ red carry case, containing equipment such as a finger pulse monitor, blood pressure monitor, thermos-scanner and digital scale; allowing them to conduct self-observations.
In addition to this, they are also given a digital tablet that allows them to record all observations and results efficiently and safely. As well as an in-person briefing, the Trust also gives every patient or carer an easy-to-read user guide, with technical and medical support available via telephone should they need it.
Results are monitored daily by the nutrition nurses who respond to alerts and all data is uploaded to keep all medical records up to date. When discharged from the Complex Virtual Ward, the red case will be returned to the nutrition team, thoroughly disinfected and prepared for the next patient.
Fiona McLachrie, a patient who has been treated through the Complex Nutrition Virtual Ward, said, “As a patient on the virtual ward service, it has given me huge relief to be able to be monitored from home and helped greatly from a mental perspective whilst on the road to recovery.
“Having the reassurance of such quick communication when submitting my observations and the excellent technical and clinical support that I am provided with makes everything super easy, I couldn’t recommend the service more!”
The Dudley Group has been paving the way nationally with their virtual ward pilots. In 2022 they launched the UK’s first Paediatric Virtual Ward, a ground-breaking programme nominated for a prestigious Royal College of Nursing Award and has subsequently been adopted by multiple trusts across the country.
Chief executive for The Dudley Group Diane Wake said, “We are thrilled to have launched another successful virtual ward pilot that enables our staff to deliver excellent patient care to our patients in the comfort of their own homes.
“The virtual ward a fantastic way the team are supporting patients and their families, and it also demonstrates this Trust’s dedication and commitment to service innovation and building a workforce for the future.”
The service currently offers six red cases for patients to take home; however, patients who may not need the equipment, but still require a phone call and clinical advice from the nurses, can still be submitted to the virtual ward for ongoing treatment.
This successful pilot has resulted in the department looking to recruit further nurses and other trusts considering adopting the scheme also.