Virtual wards: developing business cases to unlock patient and system benefits

February 16, 2024

Virtual wards offer the promise of providing safe, high-quality care at home. Recently, the Health Innovation Network South London and NHS England (London Region) have collaborated on a number of events and projects to help understand the challenges and opportunities related to virtual wards in London.

In this blog Dr Sanjay Gautama, Chief Clinical Informatics Officer for OneLondon and consultant anaesthetist, discusses how well-developed businesses cases are important to help realise the full benefits of virtual wards for patients.

Virtual wards already appear to be delivering a positive impact to patients across London and are playing an important role in giving patients the choice to receive safe and high-quality care at home.

However, with operational and financial pressures on NHS services perhaps more pronounced than they have ever been, justifying investment into the wider spread and implementation of virtual wards requires the development of sustainable and robust business cases.

Developing the business case for an emerging new model of care can be a significant challenge – with issues such as a paucity of evidence, fractured data sets and a rapidly-evolving technological offering all making it difficult for providers or commissioners to pull together comprehensive benefits assessments.

Given these issues, NHS England (London region) and the Health Innovation Network South London recently brought together key stakeholders from across the capital to understand the most critical considerations for virtual wards business cases and to review the evidence at hand.

Key findings from the subsequent report included reflections on operational priorities, such as the potential for virtual wards to provide admission avoidance rather than only step-down care, and the importance of near-seamless integration into existing services.

The report also summarises evidence from four key areas of benefit identified so far in real-world virtual ward implementations:

The report provides practical, experience-based information about the challenges of optimising virtual wards, as well as guidance on structuring business cases and appropriate measurement and evaluation.

We hope that our newly-published report will prove useful for anyone working in this space across health and social care.

Download the full report

View our full paper for detailed information about the benefits and considerations for virtual wards business cases.

Access the full report