What is Hospital@Home?

In Somerset, we’re working with health and care partners to develop a new Hospital@Home programme (also known as virtual wards) to care for patients at home safely, rather than being in hospital.

A virtual ward is a safe and efficient alternative to NHS bedded care that is enhanced by technology. It supports patients to remain at home who would otherwise be in hospital to receive the acute care, monitoring and treatment that they need.

This includes either preventing avoidable admissions into hospital or supporting early discharge out of hospital. The service can help patients to complete their treatment or be monitored prior to surgery from the comfort of their own home.

People who are cared for through Hospital@Home are regularly reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team made up of experienced clinicians such as consultants, nurses, therapists and experienced healthcare workers to ensure they receive the highest levels of care.

Hospital@Home works in partnership with other healthcare services, such as primary care, social care, other NHS community teams, SWAST and NHS111.

Why has this service been developed?

The NHS is increasingly introducing virtual wards to support people at the place they call home,

including care homes. By doing so it can help to reduce some of the negative consequences associated with a hospital stays such increased deconditioning (loss of mobility and strength), desocialisation (not seeing friends and family) and increased exposure to hospital acquired infections or confusion.

Many people would rather be treated in familiar surroundings and often recover more quickly when not moved away from home.

It is also hoped that the additional ‘bed’ capacity being created by this model will support winter pressures across the system, reducing demand for inpatient beds and improving patient flow and pressure on our Emergency Departments.

Initially in Somerset we are developing four patient pathways to support people with respiratory, frailty, heart failure and post-surgery needs. NHS England is aiming for an initial 40-50 virtual ward ‘beds’ per 100,000 population by December 2023.

How has the model been developed?

The ideas behind Hospital@Home are not completely new. In Somerset, we already support people to remain at home with a wide range of needs in a variety of ways, for example, through complex care services, district nursing, rapid response alongside many other services and teams.

We are also using our own experiences and learning collected from the pulse oximetry service and COVID virtual wards, as well as national learning to help develop and evolve our Somerset model.

Hospital@Home will build capacity that will help to provide acute care, remote monitoring and treatment away from the hospital for an increasing number of different health conditions.

We’re currently working with a small number of patients to develop the service and listening to feedback from the people we care for will be an important part of how the model evolves over time.

How does it work?

The Hospital@Home service is not a completely separate service or team, it is built on a model that connects a series of different teams together to ensure that patients receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

We are expanding the teams who can deliver acute care at home, supported by the use of technology to support remote monitoring of existing health conditions and planned treatment.

We are developing a single Hospital@Home service supported by specialists for respiratory, frailty, heart failure and support for pre and post-surgery needs as required.

Benefits for patients

The Hospital@Home service can help patients to leave hospital sooner and recover in the comfort and familiarity of home, this has a positive effect on mental health and wellbeing and can help speed up recovery. We know that people who are admitted to hospital often lose their mobility and

independence very quickly, which makes it harder for them to get home and back to doing the things that they enjoy.

A few months ago, a small test and learn project was launched, where people who did not want to attend hospital, were successfully treated and cared for at home. Initial feedback has been very positive, and we are continuing to work closely with patients, families, carers and clinical teams to listen to feedback and further develop the Hospital@Home model.

Who can access Hospital@Home care?

To access the service, patients need to be aged over 18 and registered with a Somerset GP. Patients can be referred by GPs, or transferred from hospital wards, emergency admission areas or even clinics.

How long will patients be looked after by the Hospital@Home service?

The expected treatment time is between 1 and 14 days. Patients will be assessed to see if they are well enough ready to be discharged. They will be assessed daily to check progress.