28 / 01 / 2016
Older patients who are frail and have multiple complex conditions will receive care from multiple professionals. That those professionals may be employed by different organisations is of little interest to the patient – he or she wants to receive seamless, speedy care. Yet failures in communication between organisations and professions can often cause to confusion and sub-optimal care for older people.
This was a problem identified in Powys, a rural area in mid-Wales. Further cause for concern was the number of older people admitted to hospitals in an emergency – typically some way from home, as there are no A&E departments in the immediate area.
To address these challenges, a virtual ward has been developed. Each day at three community hospitals in the area (Ystradgynlais, Brecon and Bronllys), a key group of healthcare professionals and voluntary sector staff discuss the care of a group of older patients. Led by a GP, nurse and social worker, the group also identifies those people who may be at high risk of future unplanned hospital admissions. Patients are admitted and discharged from the virtual ward as needed: the difference from a conventional ward is that they never need to leave their own home to get the support they need.
Since the introduction of the scheme, there has been a 12 per cent drop in the number of emergency admissions to hospitals. This represents a £342,000 saving for the health board.