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Government turns to virtual wards to tackle NHS crisis



The NHS is to roll out thousands more virtual wards as part of emergency measures announced today by the Government.

The Urgent and Emergency Care Plan will enable more patients to be monitored at home using technology such as wearables and video, helping to ease pressure on emergency care services.

NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, said:

“The front door to the NHS is often where we can see the pressures build up – and to relieve that pressure, we will continue to work with social care colleagues to free up space in hospitals so that people who are well enough to leave can be discharged and get the care they need at home or in the community.

“The history of the NHS is one of change and innovation and so, while striving to meet the needs of today’s patients, we are also looking to the future of the NHS and will shortly set out our workforce plan – which is a once in a generation opportunity to put the NHS on a sustainable footing.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has also promised 5,000 more beds and 800 new ambulances as the Government tries to tackle the ongoing crisis.

Falls services which seek to prevent hospital admissions in older people will also be run all year round while new rehab and physio services will be piloted across the country.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

“Cutting NHS waiting times is one of my five priorities.

“Urgent and emergency care is facing serious challenges but we have an ambitious and credible plan to fix it.

“It will take time to get there but our plan will cut long waiting times by increasing the number of ambulances, staff and beds – stopping the bottlenecks outside A&E and making sure patients are seen and discharged quickly.”

There are currently 7,000 virtual beds already in place in the community, many caring for elderly people and individuals with respiratory conditions.

Up to 50,000 patients are month will be cared for virtually by the end of 2023/24, a press release said.

However, NHS leaders have expressed scepticism that such will ease pressure on the health service while a workforce crisis endures.

Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:

“The NHS has been at the mercy of a sluggish and short-term approach from the government in its response to the crisis facing emergency services this winter.

“The NHS needs the right numbers and mix of staff in place if it is to truly recover the performance of emergency care and other services long term.”

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