Overcrowded NHS hospitals to see patients at home in ‘virtual wards’


However, patient groups expressed concerns about the proposals, saying it was “extremely dangerous to try to palm people off with virtual appointments”.

Health officials said the extra 7,000 beds would include a mixture of “virtual” and physical beds, but were unable to say what the split would be.

Hospitals are being encouraged to find other ways to expand capacity, including opening new buildings.

Health chiefs have pledged an extra £10 million for mental health services, more workers to support GPs and promised to recruit more call handlers. At least 4,800 staff are working in 111 and 2,500 in 999 call rooms to deal with higher demand.

Prof Sir Stephen said: “Ahead of the winter, we want to make sure we are doing everything we possibly can to free up capacity so that staff can ensure patients get the care they need – this includes timely discharge, working with social care, and better support in the community with the expansion of virtual wards.”

Mr Barclay said: “To prepare for what could be a challenging winter, I am working closely with the NHS at pace to ensure we are ready for the pressures ahead. By increasing capacity, boosting NHS 111 and 999 support, tackling delayed discharge and using new innovations such as virtual wards, we can help patients get the care they need, when they need it.”


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