Gateshead Health’s Frailty Virtual Ward offers patients an alternative to a hospital stay

The Frailty Virtual Ward at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust first opened in
September 2023. The ward aims to help patients who are frail to stay at home during
a period of acute illness such as chest infections, urine infections or constipation
alongside conditions such as dementia or delirium.

We offer an alternative to a hospital stay and this can be a ‘step down’ enabling an
earlier discharge or a ‘step up’ avoiding hospital admission. Hospital-level care at
home benefits frail, elderly patients as they are in their own environment and can
help speed up recovery. Many patients with frailty can become de-conditioned whilst
in hospital; they can pick up hospital-acquired infections or fall due to disorientation.
Referrals to the frailty virtual ward come from GPs, community nurse practitioners,
rapid response teams, and from frailty nurses and doctors in the hospital. Patients
can be admitted to the ward for up to 14 days.

Frailty Virtual Ward team

A typical day consists of a ‘virtual’ ward round with a wide multidisciplinary team of
doctors, community frailty nurse practitioners, physiotherapists, occupational
therapists, healthcare assistants, and adult social services. Patient issues and needs
are discussed and plans are made for home assessments, interventions or tests that
would usually be carried out in a hospital ward.

The frailty team can refer patients to many other services to help people remain in
their own homes including rapid access to the PRIME team which can provide short-
term packages of care for up to 6 weeks.

Patient’s mobility and functioning are assessed during the time on the ward and
equipment can be ordered if needed. Medication can be prescribed or stopped to
reduce problems associated with taking many medications. The team also assists
with advanced care planning to allow patients to be cared for in their preferred
environment in the future respecting individual wishes.

We hope to expand the team in the future at Gateshead Health as it has been very
successful with positive patient feedback.