NICE outlines guidance supporting acute respiratory infection and frailty virtual wards

NICE has outlined three work-streams for virtual wards to support systems to deliver 40-50 virtual ward beds safely and sustainably per 100,000 population.

Mark Salmon, programme director within the science, evidence and analytics team at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), has written a blog detailing how NICE is supporting the NHS ambition for virtual wards.

An ambition equal to up to 24,000 virtual ward beds, supported by £450m additional funding over two years, the minimum requirement for ICSs is to establish virtual care models for acute respiratory infection and frailty.

He shares how NICE has three key streams of work that are contributing to these ambitions, the first being the development of clinical guidelines on acute respiratory infections in over 16s, including initial assessment and management. This guideline will support healthcare professionals in deciding where patients with suspected infections should be referred, and is expected to be published in October this year.

Secondly, NICE is working on the development of technology assessment guidance on technologies that enable virtual wards for acute respiratory infections. “The aim of this guidance is to outline key considerations and characteristics of the digital platforms that help to materialise the value and benefits of virtual wards for patients, healthcare professionals and the system,” the blog states, adding that it will include advice on future priorities for data collection. This guidance is due to be published in September.

The third workstream involves development of economic evaluation and support tools. NICE plans to update the economics evidence that supports clinical guideline NG94 on emergency and acute medical care for over 16s, which seeks to reduce hospital admissions through provision of community alternatives and enhanced training.

In addition, a review is underway on the real-world economics data from NHS sites that have implemented virtual wards, to provide “general advice to support economic business case development”. Using this, NICE is to develop case studies and implementation support tools which highlight the benefits and barriers of virtual ward programmes in practical use. It is expected that this will be published in phases between July and November this year.