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Virtual wards set up ‘to save A&E’ only staffed 12 hours a day

Virtual wards, set up to relieve pressure on A&E departments, could create extra NHS demand as some are only staffed for 12 hours a day, the country’s top emergency doctor has warned.

The service allows patients to be monitored remotely from their own homes, freeing up hospital beds and capacity in emergency departments.

Patients are given devices to track their vital signs, such as blood pressure and oxygen levels, with readings sent back to doctors via smartphone apps.

Dr Boyle, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said that virtual wards “must not be seen as a silver bullet for all the problems in urgent and emergency care”.

“We’re very wary of virtual ward beds being used to say that there are increased beds within hospitals because that’s simply not true,” he said. “The plan for 7,000 or 5,000 extra beds need to be actual beds, with pillows, sheets and staff looking after them.”

Source: Telegraph, 11 February 2023

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