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Hospital admissions in Devon down thanks to 'virtual wards'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 18, 2012

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An NHS "virtual ward" scheme is helping to drive down unnecessary hospital admissions in Devon.

Bosses at NHS Devon, Plymouth and Torbay claim the number of people unnecessarily admitted to hospital in the county has fallen by thousands since the scheme was launched four years ago by a Devon GP.

The "virtual ward" identifies people at risk of being admitted to hospital and provides them with the same level of care from their home. It is based around local communities and runs at all GP practices in Devon.

Nearly 7,000 patients have benefited from the scheme which has prevented hundreds of unnecessary admissions to hospital according to NHS figures.

Sir John Oldham, the Department of Health's clinical lead for quality and productivity, said the county's health services were "leading the way with their wonderful scheme to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions".

The project was introduced in 2008 by North Devon GP Dr Paul Lovell, who found that a number of patients were being repeatedly admitted to hospital when their condition worsened.

Dr Lovell said: "We are very pleased that so many patients are being cared for in the comfort of their own home rather than being admitted to hospital. Many of the patients we see, particularly the frail and elderly, often get admitted to hospital when their healthcare issues could have been better dealt with proactively in the local community.

He added: "Our system works by providing risk scores for all patients registered with Devon-based GP practices and those with high or rising risks are highlighted and drawn to the attention of healthcare professionals for multi-disciplinary case management.

"One of the reasons the scheme has been so successful is that patients who are at high risk are identified quickly and their needs are addressed in the best way for them."

At a meeting with Northern, Eastern and Western Devon clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and South Devon and Torbay CCG, Sir John was shown how the scheme was benefiting the county.

He said: "It has been wonderful to see what the CCGs in Devon are doing to help those with multiple long-term conditions.

"Devon's experience is helping other areas of the country to move forward and people in Devon should be proud of what their healthcare system and local authority social care system is doing.

"Not only are they demonstrably improving healthcare outcomes but are showing how health and social care professionals working together is a better use of resources."

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