Date published: 16 May 2022
The North West’s only heart failure ‘virtual ward’ has being launched following a successful joint bid from Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust (MCFT) and Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LUHFT) to secure funding from the NHS Digital Health Partnership Award.
The funding will allow the two Trusts to work together to deliver only the second virtual ward of its type in the country and ensure heart failure patients can receive the same care by remaining at home as they would expect from a hospital.
The innovation, in partnership with digital health company Docobo and part of Mersey Care’s Telehealth Service, will help with the early identification of any deterioration of symptoms and complications via data readings that are received by a clinical hub.
“We learned through the COVID-19 pandemic, when we treated patients at home using similar technology, that by keeping people out of hospital and allowing them to be treated in the community it helps with their recovery tremendously,” explained Allan Rimmer, head of the service at Mersey Care.
“It allows clinical staff the opportunity to monitor our patients without adding to the pressure on hospital beds and we think patients will also benefit from being with their loved ones in a home environment.”
The aim of the service is to recruit 200 patients across Cheshire and Merseyside over the next six months, which if they achieve that target is estimated to save around 1,500 bed days in hospitals and a potential cost saving of £540,000.
Patients accepted onto the service can expect a daily review in the virtual ward round by a consultant and will be monitored for 14 days by Telehealth clinicians.
The three times a day observations will include temperate checks, blood pressure, oxygen levels, step count, ECG taken at home, and daily symptoms questionnaire for clinical assessment and acute virtual ward monitoring.
Dr Rajiv Sankaranarayanan, Consultant Cardiologist and Heart Failure Lead at LUHFT, said: “It’s a great honour to lead this novel project which won a competitive grant from NHSX (Transformation Agency).
“People with heart failure will be able to be monitored in their own homes by heart failure specialists through the aid of remote monitoring digital technology, thus avoiding the need for hospitalisation.”
Health care professionals can refer patients into the service from primary care, outpatient clinics, heart failure teams ambulatory care units, acute medical units, wards and A&E departments.
“This is a tremendous piece of work that will be of real benefit to people being treated for heart-failure,” said Dr David Levy, Regional Medical Director for NHS North West. “It’s an example of how advances in technology are allowing the NHS to deliver tailored services, closer to home, based on what’s best for patients.
“And we know that for some people, being able to be cared for in the comfort of their own homes, instead of as an inpatient, is best for them. The North West region has some challenges with levels of heart disease and heart failure – and so it’s good that this approach is being pioneered up here, where it can potentially have significant benefits.”