The NHS is on trajectory to fall short of a flagship pledge to have around 24,000 “virtual ward beds” in place by December 2023, internal data has revealed.
NHS England’s figures from March, seen by HSJ, suggest the system is instead more likely to have created around 18,500 virtual beds by the 2023 deadline.
Senior clinicians, including the Royal College of Physicians and the Society of Acute Medicine, have recently raised concerns about the speed and timing of the roll-out and staffing implications.
And now fresh concerns are also being raised about the programme following publication of a new academic study which suggests virtual wards set up by the NHS during Covid made little impact on length of stay or readmissions rates.
Alison Leary, professor of healthcare and workforce modelling, London South Bank University, was one of the first senior leaders to publicly voice concerns about the NHS’s virtual wards programme.
Professor Leary told HSJ: “I am not surprised [systems are falling] short. Since Elaine [Elaine Maxwell, visiting professor, London South Bank University] and I published our piece in HSJ, I have been contacted by several clinicians who have serious concerns over virtual wards and staffing them.”
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Source: HSJ, 31 March 2022