Virtual wards set up to help people manage COVID-19 patients at home, as well as support those with long covid, are being expanded in Walsall to include patients with respiratory conditions and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
So far more than 1,800 people have been cared for through virtual wards that were put in place to reduce the length of time people were in hospital or prevent them from having to go in at all.
The Walsall Together Partnership initially introduced the approach in December with patients discharged from hospital with COVID-19 managed via the Care Navigation Centre. The centre receives three calls a day within the first 10 days to monitor oxygen levels and provide support and advice on self-management of covid on discharge.
In addition, patients who have been discharged from hospital, or are referred by a GP with symptoms of long covid, are also provided with a follow up service at six week and 12 weeks. They are provided with support and advice on self-managing long covid symptoms such as breathing techniques, exercise, food/drink through online tools and patient education leaflets.
Sarah Gumbley, Team lead/Clinical Sister, for the Care Navigation Centre, said: “This service has proved to be very successful in making sure people are treated in a safe and effective way and in the most appropriate setting.
“It has meant people have been able to go home from hospital or avoid going into hospital in the first place with the confidence that they will have someone calling them to check how they are and equally they can call us if they are worried at any point. The fact that this approach has been so beneficial to patients as well as helping to reduce the pressures in our hospitals means we want to continue with this new way of working for other patients with respiratory illnesses or COPD.”
As part of the expansion of the service, patients on respiratory or COPD pathways will be monitored via phone calls and video consultations with the frequency depending on their individual need. If there are any concerns, patients are visited by a community nurse who will make an assessment.