Covid: How 'virtual wards' are helping elderly patients receive hospital-level care at home

Video report by ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan

Excess deaths have been consistently high throughout the pandemic and on Tuesday it was confirmed the peak of Covid deaths in the second wave had been passed.

Hospitals bearing the brunt of that sickness remain incredibly busy.

Which is why medics in Leeds have come up with a way of offering seriously ill elderly patients hospital-level care at home.

Not only does the scheme reduce the pressure on NHS wards, it reassures patients who are afraid of catching Covid if they go into hospital, and allows them to still see their loved ones without restrictions on visiting.

Now ITV News has been told the measure will soon be extended to another 124 hospital trusts.

For Jill Holmes, a virtual ward matron, she sees the benefits of treating patients at home everyday.

Virtual ward matron Jill Holmes on a visit to see patient Harold Robinson. Credit: ITV News

"We have had a greater number of patients - with exacerbations of heart failure, exacerbations of their lung disease - and they just don't want to go into hospital," she said.

"They haven't wanted to call their GP, because they don't want to worry them, and they don't want to bother them if they've got more poorly patients to see."

"But these are really poorly patients themselves as well."

For patients too, it's a lifeline.

"You just think to yourself, 'I'd rather be at home and get better myself at home'." Harold Robinson - a virtual patient - tells ITV News.

Maureen remembers lying on a hospital bed in the corridor the last time she was admitted. Credit: ITV News

Maureen Dunnington is 83-years-old, she's just recovered from Covid and has a bowel infection, but she's staying at home and receiving treatment there.

Her recollection of previous experiences in hospital sums up what a difference the at-home visits can make: "You used to leave me on a corridor some nights," she tells virtual ward matron Ms Holmes.

"I'd be laid in a bed on the corridor".