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Virtual wards helping elderly receive better care; With just over five weeks until the winners of this year's NHS Wales Awards are announced, Mark Smith looks at how one of the finalists is improving care for elderly patients.

The creation of "virtual wards" in Powys is helping at-risk and frail elderly patients receive better care and remain at home, avoiding admission to hospital.

The project, which has been developed in three community hospitals, is in the finals of the Improving Quality Through Better Use of Resources category, supported by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Wales, in this year's NHS Wales Awards.

It brings together a team of staff in South Powys, working across health and social care, to discuss the most appropriate care for a patient. The new co-ordinated approach is enabling more people to be successfully treated in their own home and has led to a 12% drop in emergency admissions to hospitals, resulting in a PS342,000 saving for the health board.

Powys Teaching Health Board senior nurse Nigel Broad said: "The NHS Awards have given us the opportunity to showcase the changes we have made and the benefits this has brought for patients throughout the communities of South Powys.

"We recognise that patients who are discharged from hospital or are at high risk of emergency admission to hospital, are likely to experience fragmented care. The virtual ward puts the patient at the centre, ensuring that health professionals and third sector colleagues work together, to deliver early care in the heart of the community."

The virtual ward was created after it was noted that many elderly patients were being unnecessarily admitted to hospitals as an emergency and that earlier support and treatment was needed to prevent these admissions. Many patients were also being seen by many different members of staff leading to confusion, inconsistency and a lack of communication.

The creation of a virtual ward means that, each day at the same time, a key group of healthcare professionals and voluntary sector staff, led by a GP, nurse and social worker, meet together under one roof to discuss treating patients and also identify those who may be at high risk of future unplanned hospital admissions. This daily face-to-face communication has improved the process of referrals and ensured the most appropriate care is delivered at the right time.

Patient Sybil Davies, 82, from Cwm Twch, near Ystradgynlais, has recently benefited from the work.

She said: "Previously I have spent three weeks in hospital, they looked after me there, but it was not my home and that is where I want to be cared for.

"The virtual ward team has looked after me fantastically well and with the help of my husband and family, I am now able to continue to be at home and part of the community where I live."

NHS Wales Awards judge Mair Davies, chairwoman of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Wales, said: "This is a great example of health and social services working together to deliver seamless care appropriate to each patient's needs."

The NHS Wales Awards are organised by 1000 Lives Improvement in Public Health Wales.

For a full list of finalists please visit www.nhswalesawards.org.uk

CAPTION(S):

Patient Sybil Davies and virtual <B ward team leader Eira Price and district nurses Susan Fisher, Jane Edwards and Jackie Ellaway

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 10, 2015
Words:517
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