National awards raise profile of integrated partnership’s virtual hospital in Hertfordshire

Published: 18th November 2022

A ground-breaking virtual hospital that has been developed by local health and care services working together to look after people with lung disease and heart failure in their own home was a finalist in the Health Service Journal awards on 17 November.

The South and West Hertfordshire Health and Care Partnership (HCP), of which Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust is a part, was nominated in the Place-Based Partnership category but missed out on the top award. 

By working together, the partnership has created a service that supports patients to be discharged quickly from hospital and continue their recovery at home. Thanks to home monitoring equipment, and with direct support from staff from Central London Community Healthcare and West Herts Teaching Hospitals NHS Trusts, patients can be safely looked after at home in the same way as they would be in a hospital ward.

HSJ Awards judges recognised the ambition, outcome, value, involvement, and combined effort that has been demonstrated through the HCP’s development of the virtual hospital, as well as its potential to be replicated elsewhere.

Dr Katy Healy, Director of Transformation for the HCP, said, "Although we’d have loved to have brought home the award, the real prize for us is in the relationships we have formed as a partnership and lessons we have learnt together in the planning, roll-out and delivery of the virtual hospital. They will shape not only the evolution of the virtual hospital but everything else we do as a partnership for the health and wellbeing of our communities in south and west Hertfordshire." 

There has been extensive positive feedback from patients who have been treated by the virtual hospital since it was launched in December 2021, and staff providing the services have reported an improved sense of ‘working together’.  

Andrew, a patient with COPD who receives care from the virtual hospital, said, “When you are at home, it helps you recuperate more. You are in your own environment, know where everything is, can sleep better and you know that you’re being kept an eye on by the hospital because you’ve got constant contact with them. It makes me feel safe and secure knowing that they’re on the other end of the phone.” 

Jessica Peplow, Community Heart Failure Specialist Nurse, Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust said: “As a nurse, I have seen first-hand how beneficial it can be for patients to recover in familiar surroundings, closer to their loved ones. It gives me great pride to be able to reassure patients that they are in safe hands and receiving hospital-level care at home. We have received positive feedback from patients, carers and family members who have used the service and it is an honour to have the work of the virtual hospital recognised nationally.” 

The service built on the success of an initial COVID-19 virtual hospital, which was launched at the beginning of the pandemic to care for patients with the virus. The expanded service now offers care for people with heart failure and those with chronic pulmonary disease (COPD). There are plans on the horizon to extend this further to include patients with pneumonia, diabetes and those who are frail.     

Andy Barlow, NHS England Clinical Lead for COVID Virtual Hospitals, East of England, and one of the clinicians leading the project said: “We are delighted that expanding our virtual hospital to new conditions has been recognised nationally. We’re excited about growing the service so that many more patients receive care from the comfort of their home. We’re proud to be inspiring other colleagues across the country and attracting international attention with this innovative pathway of care.” 

Dr Jane Halpin, Chief Executive of Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care System, said, “The virtual hospital is a stellar example of how working together and integrating services can enhance patient experience and care. The HCP is one of three new partnerships across Hertfordshire and west Essex and this recognition highlights just how much can be achieved through these local relationships. Congratulations to everyone involved in developing the service right through to our colleagues on the ground who are delivering the care day-in and day-out.” 

Watch this video to find out more about the virtual hospital:


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