England plans to ramp up use of hospital-at-home
February 8, 2023
LONDON, UK – The emergency care plan of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government includes intentions to serve more than 500,000 patients annually in “virtual” hospital wards.
According to the Department of Health, 50,000 aged and vulnerable individuals might receive specialized support at home each month as part of a plan to divert some NHS treatment away from overburdened hospitals.
In December, about 10,000 people in England received care in this way.
By the end of 2023, roughly 3,000 virtual beds are expected to be established, with the goal of ministers suggesting that 50,000 individuals a month might get care at home, the First Post news service reported.
The move comes amid several allegations that hospitals are failing to manage the intense constraints on staff, with nurse walkouts certain to continue as a wage and working conditions conflict rages on.
According to Health Secretary Steve Barclay (pictured), increased use of the hospital-at-home would “reduce pressure” on overburdened emergency facilities. He said that up to 20% of hospital admissions might be prevented with the proper treatment in place.
While there is no simple remedy for the huge strains the healthcare system is under, he said, “we can take immediate action to eliminate lengthy delays for urgent and emergency care.”
According to Mr. Barclay, “the most vulnerable, frail, and elderly patients can be better assisted to continue living independently or recuperate at home by expanding the care offered in the community.
More services to prevent falls and frailty will be implemented as part of this, and up to 50,000 patients will receive care each month to heal in the comfort of their own homes.
According to the most recent data, the average wait time for an ambulance for heart attacks and strokes increased to 93 minutes in December, double the 43-minute wait time observed in November. In the ED, more than 55,000 people waited for at least 12 hours.
In a challenging winter, the NHS faced a “twindemic” of the flu and Covid-19, according to chief executive Amanda Pritchard.
According to Pritchard, “Our thorough preparation ahead of winter has helped to raise capacity, from extra 111 and 999 call takers to new falls services and more beds, and we now intend to build on that work to help speed up care and improve patient experiences.”
The government claimed that the proposal builds on the NHS’s existing virtual wards, which allow patients to receive care at home while being followed up on by doctors via regular visits or video chats.
The goal of the initiative is to improve the number of referrals and patients seen by medical staff within two hours by scaling up urgent community response teams.
The autumn statement’s announcement of £14.1 billion in funding for health and care services over the following two years was cited by the government.
“We are glad to see the focus on extending community health and care services and the awareness of the significance of therapy and recovery support to get people back home following discharge,” said James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association.
The plan’s successful execution will depend on teamwork and a focus on results.
Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive at NHS Providers, called it a “timely announcement” but warned that the plans were “not enough in themselves”.
“We desperately need action to tackle the vast workforce shortages, staff exhaustion and burnout, and the inability to free up capacity by discharging medically fit patients in a safe and timely way.”
Patricia Marquis, Royal College of Nursing director for England, also said it was the right aspiration. “But this plan relies on ramping up community services – services which in the case of nursing have been decimated in recent years,” she told the Independent newspaper.
“There is a dire workforce shortage across nursing and it is biting particularly hard in community services, with the number of district nurses falling significantly in the last decade amid soaring demand and care needs becoming increasingly complex. “Without investment in staff, this plan won’t make a difference.”
Recent weeks have been dominated by reports that hospitals are struggling to cope amid severe pressures on staff, with walkouts by nurses set to continue as a dispute over pay and conditions goes on.