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Virtual wards offer online care

The trust has opened its fourth ‘virtual ward’ (VW) in response to Government calls for more patients to be treated at home.

One-in-four hospital patients has diabetes as an underlying condition and the diabetes VW focuses on discharging them as safely and early as possible.

Diabetes patients spent an average of two extra days in hospital but could be discharged into a VW where their condition is remotely managed by diabetes specialist nurses via an app.

North-West London has a high national prevalence of diabetes affecting around 168,000 people.

Diabetes nurses showing film crew a virtual ward

Diabetes Nurse Consultant Sharon McCarthy said: “The majority of people don’t want to stay in hospital any longer than they have to so we provide the support to make it happen.

“The best place for these patients is home and, if they do need to come in, they are referred straight to the diabetes centre rather than A&E.”

The transformation team originally piloted the scheme in A&E for several weeks showing how patients with diabetes could avoid admission if assessed by a diabetes specialist.

It quickly became apparent how many could be redirected back into the community with the right support.

Sharon added: “Patients are discharged from the virtual ward after their condition has stabilised but initially, they may be sending us four to five readings a day. If we spot anything untoward, we call them and advise on changes in medication.

Diabetes VW patients are given a blood glucose meter and access to an app that can upload their blood glucose readings onto the platform and can be monitored virtually in real-time.

At present, there are VWs for heart failure, respiratory, infectious diseases and diabetes with additional VWs planned for surgical pathways and palliative care.

Clinical Director Dr Harmandeep Singh said: “It’s a very exciting time in medicine and, with the right support network, the opportunities for better healthcare at home are huge.

“Using digital technologies and specialised staff we can avoid unnecessary admissions and get patients who are in hospital home quicker with the safety net of them being remotely monitored.”

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