Virtual Community Wards to be introduced

Aberdeenshire Council's Woodhill House headquarters
Aberdeenshire Council's Woodhill House headquarters

Vulnerable people who are at risk of being admitted to hospital could soon be part of a virtual community ward after Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership’s Integrated Joint Board (IJB) approved the innovative scheme for the next three years.

At its first meeting, the IJB approved £5m of funding which will see virtual community wards set up initially in Peterhead and also Insch, Kincardine & Mearns, Aboyne, Banchory, Turriff, Macduff and Kemnay.

The Virtual Community Ward is a method by which health and social care services can be integrated around the needs of individuals at risk.

It creates a system which can rapidly identify and meet the needs of individuals who have acute illness, exacerbation of chronic illness, terminal phase of an illness or complexity associated with social care needs.

Most, but not all, will be elderly, and will often be frail already.

The intervention is therefore aimed at the group of individuals most likely to suffer an otherwise avoidable hospital or care home admission, or to come to harm due to a lack of organisation of, and consistency of, health and social care.

Chair of Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership’s Integrated Joint Board, Raymond Bisset explained how it works in practice: “The Virtual Community Ward is based around a local area in most cases defined by a GP practice patient population.

“Individuals who could benefit from this approach are identified by any member of the Health & Social Care (H&SC) team. Individuals are “admitted” and their names entered on a whiteboard.

“GPs, Social Work staff, Community Nurses and where appropriate other team members meet each morning around the whiteboard for about 15 minutes, checking rapidly on progress of individuals and deciding on actions needed that day.

“Once individuals have recovered they are then “discharged” from the ward to normal or if necessary enhanced care.”

The Virtual Community Ward will be developed in a phased way across Aberdeenshire with the proposed addition of rapidly accessible home carers, community nurses, care managers and medical diagnostics.

Vice Chair of Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership’s IJB Cllr Anne Allan added: “It is important Virtual Community Wards fit around the needs of their local population and which reflects the existing resources they have locally.

“This is the perfect example of people working together to identify those who are most at risk of going into hospital so we can put together a combined package of care, support and lifestyle advice designed to keep people healthier and independent for longer.