May 27, 2024

Transforming Urgent and Emergency Care

Understanding the New NHS UEC Funding for Virtual Wards

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Hot on the heels of landmark new population-scale analysis showing the cost-effectiveness and clinical benefits of Virtual Wards, NHS England has drafted a letter to all NHS Provider and ICB Executives outlining its key priorities for the Urgent and Emergency Care (UEC) Recovery Plan. As part of these measures, we are delighted to note an additional £150 million in funding, with a particular emphasis on the inclusion of “step-up” care models in virtual wards to enhance patient care, reduce hospital strain, and improve outcomes for diverse patient populations.

Overview of the UEC Recovery Plan

The 2024/25 UEC Recovery Plan is a comprehensive strategy aimed at reducing avoidable hospital admissions, improving waiting times, and enhancing the overall quality of urgent and emergency care services. This new guidance builds on the success of the 2023/24 plan, which significantly impacted UEC performance and highlighted virtual wards as a high-impact intervention.

With respect to Virtual Wards, key focus areas include:

  • Frailty: Providing specialised care pathways for frail patients to manage their conditions at home and avoid hospitalisation.
  • Acute Respiratory Infections: Implementing early intervention and remote monitoring to prevent severe exacerbations that lead to emergency admissions.
  • Heart Failure: Offering continuous monitoring and management to reduce hospital visits and improve patient outcomes.
  • Children and Young People: Ensuring that younger populations have access to effective home-based care to manage acute conditions without the need for hospital visits.

The Funding: A Pathway to Improved Healthcare

The £150 million fund is designed to support the implementation and scaling of various initiatives across NHS organisations, including virtual wards, as part of a broader strategy to enhance urgent and emergency care services.

Virtual wards represent a transformative approach in healthcare delivery, enabling patients to receive hospital-level care in the comfort of their homes. This model utilises advanced remote monitoring technologies, allowing healthcare professionals to track patients' vital signs and manage their conditions effectively from a distance.

Key benefits of virtual wards include:

  • Reduced A&E Attendances: By providing timely interventions and continuous monitoring, virtual wards significantly reduce the need for emergency department visits. For instance, within the BLMK ICB, there was a 20% reduction in A&E attendances, and patients in pulmonary rehab were found to be 3 times less likely to get admitted to A&E​​.
  • Early Discharge: Patients can be discharged earlier from hospitals with the assurance of continued care at home, freeing up vital hospital beds. The virtual ward supports early discharge by reducing hospital bed occupancy and increasing clinical capacity, which has resulted in significant reductions in the length of hospital stays​​.
  • Cost Savings: The reduction in hospital admissions and shorter hospital stays translate to substantial cost savings for the healthcare system. Every £1 invested in Doccla's virtual ward yields a return of £3.10 according to an NHS-funded study.
  • Improved Patient Outcomes: Continuous monitoring and early interventions lead to better management of chronic conditions and acute illnesses. Doccla's virtual wards have contributed to a 29% reduction in emergency admissions within the BLMK ICB, while achieving market-leading patient compliance and satisfaction rates, both over 95%. Additionally, improved outcomes such as increased GP contact when early signs of deterioration are detected ensure timely interventions​​​​.

How Doccla Supports Healthcare Organisations

At Doccla, we are committed to supporting NHS organisations in understanding and using this new funding effectively. Our end-to-end virtual ward solutions have already made a significant impact in numerous regions, demonstrating the potential for scalable and sustainable healthcare improvements.

Our Approach:

  • Tailored Solutions: We work closely with healthcare organisations to design virtual ward solutions that meet their specific needs, providing an end-to-end service that includes clinical support and device management. This comprehensive approach ensures industry-leading patient compliance rates. Our technology can be tailored to different elements of the urgent and emergency care (UEC) pathway, supporting ambulance teams, rapid response units, and emergency departments. Additionally, it enables efficient patient flow through the hospital, thereby releasing bed capacity. Customised care pathways cater to different patient cohorts, such as those with frailty, respiratory infections, and heart failure​​.
  • Proven Success: One of our recent partnerships in South West England highlights the efficacy of our approach. By launching a proactive care hub focused on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), we achieved a 48% reduction in A&E attendances. Notably, 43% of the patients monitored were from the most deprived cohort, demonstrating the inclusivity of our services.*
  • Expert Guidance: We provide comprehensive support to healthcare organisations, from initial planning and implementation to ongoing management and optimisation of virtual wards. Our team of experts offers tailored guidance on integrating virtual wards into existing healthcare systems, ensuring smooth implementation and maximising efficiency. This expert guidance helps reduce operational burdens on healthcare staff, ensures compliance with the latest best practices and regulatory guidelines, and improves patient outcomes. By leveraging our extensive experience, we help healthcare organisations enhance clinical capacity, optimise resource allocation, and achieve significant cost savings​​.

Understanding the Funding and Implementation

  • Assessment and Planning: We assist healthcare organisations in evaluating their current capabilities and pinpointing where virtual wards can have the greatest impact.
  • Business Case Development: We help develop compelling business cases aligned with NHS priorities to maximise the chances of securing funding.
  • Training and Education: Our training programs equip healthcare professionals with the essential knowledge and skills to manage virtual wards effectively.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation: We provide robust frameworks for monitoring and evaluating virtual ward performance, enabling continuous, data-driven improvements.

Working together:

The new NHS UEC funding represents a pivotal opportunity to transform healthcare delivery and improve patient outcomes. At Doccla, we are ready to partner with NHS organisations to leverage this funding and implement effective virtual wards.

If you are interested in learning more about how we can support your organisation in utilising this funding and enhancing your healthcare services, please get in touch with us. Together, we can make a significant difference in the lives of patients and the overall efficiency of the healthcare system.

Contact us today to explore the possibilities of virtual wards.


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