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NHS urged to use ‘virtual wards’

The NHS could treat thousands of patients in ‘virtual wards’ at their homes and greatly ease the burden on its hospitals, the Guardian reports.

This information comes from a new study that says home treatment, along with regular visits from health staff, could create 5,800 new ‘hospital beds’ to help ease bed shortages and take the pressure off A&E units.

Some hospitals are already treating particular cases this way, with up to 35 patients a week being cared for this way. University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust began treating small numbers of patients who had undergone surgery such as a hip or knee replacements in virtual wards in 2010. Around 120 mainly elderly patients every month now stay at home, where they receive care fromnurses and physiotherapists.

Jane Hayward, the Trust's chief operating officer, told the Guardian that only 2% of patients on the scheme end up back in hospital again ¬– compared to the of 7%.