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The virtual ward. Managing the care of patients with chronic (long-term) conditions in the community

Janice Colligan, Locality Manager, South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

Janice's case study was completed in December 2015 and reflects 2015 prices

An estimated 17.5 million people in the UK are living with a chronic (long-term) condition. Historically, patients with respiratory conditions, diabetes and heart failure in the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust experience prolonged admissions to hospital. To change the way these patients were managed, a virtual ward service was established.

The Virtual Ward ran as a pilot from January to March 2009 with a Nurse Practitioner in the role of Virtual Ward Coordinator. Due to its success, funding was provided to roll out the Model to three localities within the Trust in January 2010.

Janice Colligan, Operations Manager at South Eastern Health and Social Care Hospital's Older People's Service, performed an economic assessment of The Virtual Ward. She found it demonstrated considerable economic benefits: A&E attendance was reduced, hospital admissions were avoided and earlier hospital discharge was facilitated.

Over three years, 812 hospital admissions were avoided and 447 episodes of care were provided by the virtual ward service. The running costs in this period were £566,273, with costs avoided calculated at £8,804,529. This equates to a total saving of £8,238,256.

Virtual Ward staff gained expert knowledge and clinical skills in supporting patients with complex chronic disease, and the impact of reduced hospital admission also reduced the risk of potential hospital acquired infections.

Janice's assessment has proven invaluable in further developing the Model of Care to provide a service over 24 / 7, which will meet future service needs.

You can contact Janice by email at

Case study
One page summary