CORNWALL Partnership NHS Foundation Trust's virtual wards are playing a key role in avoiding inpatient stays this winter by offering people hospital care in the comfort of their own homes.

Virtual wards support people whose acute respiratory or frailty condition could be managed in their own home, instead of in hospital.

Virtual wards however does not mean virtual care – when needed, clinicians carry out face-to-face treatments and diagnostics in a patient's own home.

The multi-disciplinary team offer daily phone calls. The service also provides remote monitoring and regular reviews by our medical and pharmacy teams.

Since its launch during the pandemic, the service has grown dramatically and can now treat up to 212 patients at any one time with around eight patients referred everyday.

Just in the last year, the virtual ward teams have seen almost 1,900 patients - saving more than 16,500 inpatient days in hospital.

Barbara Bennett from Redruth suffers from COPD. She chose to be admitted to a virtual ward after developing an acute lung infection.

Barbara believes being treated at home helped ensure she could go away to spend Christmas with her family.

She said: "I feel as if I've got better at home quicker, because I didn't pick up any other nasty bugs along the way. I think if I'd ended up in hospital I would have been a lot more tired. There is a lot of noise in hospital and you don't sleep as well. Being at home, I had the comfort of my own home.

"Yes, I got better quicker and yes, I was able to go away for Christmas and New Year. I was able to celebrate with my son, daughter and beautiful granddaughter."

Nurse Claire Bettison is the Trust's Operational Lead for Digital Health – saying there are many benefits for patients.

Claire explained: "If you are in your own home, you can carry on with your social connections. If you live with your partner or other half and you are in hospital, sometimes trying to get to and from the hospital to visit can be quite restrictive. Even little things like conversations with a neighbour are on hold when you are in hospital. However, we know all of that is important for a patient's recovery.

"As well as that social element, patients being cared for in their own homes can eat the food they are used to eating. There is nowhere like your own bed to get a good night's sleep. It is familiar. It is comfortable. All of that really helps with recovery.

"It is also good for the person to have that choice. This is a choice that was not there before, and it is really important patients are active in their care and make their own choices."

Tamsyn Anderson is a GP and the Trust's chief operating officer. She says the ability to contact the virtual wards gives patients and carers a real confidence in being able to stay at home.

Tamsin added: "We know that some patients need specialist care in hospital. However, most people would prefer to be cared for at home. For many, being in their own home helps them to stay as independent as possible. Particularly as you get older, there are a number of factors that can compound your wellbeing if you are admitted to hospital. You are in an unfamiliar environment, which can be a challenge if you have any sort of cognitive impairment.

"From a mobility perspective, there is a real benefit to being in a familiar environment. Our brains work on pattern recognition. They use a lot of tricks to keep us as independent and mobile as possible. These include something as simple as knowing how many steps it is to the toilet or where the sofa is. When you are admitted to hospital, those props are not available to you. These are among the reasons it is better to try and keep people at home as much as we can."

Do you want to be treated at home? Ask your GP or hospital staff about virtual wards.