Four ICBs currently meeting NHSE’s virtual wards target for end of 2023

NHS England has published the latest batch of information on virtual ward services in each integrated care board in England and at national level, with the data indicating that four ICBs are currently meeting the target for services to include 40-50 virtual ward beds per 100,000 adults by the end of this year.

Noting that the statistics are “classified as experimental”, NHSE shares data on capacity, occupancy percentage and capacity per 100,000 of the adult population.

Along with the ambition for 40-50 virtual ward beds per 100,000 people – reiterated in the recovering urgent and emergency services here – the winter resilience plan includes a target for virtual wards to maintain 80 percent occupancy rates over the winter period.

The newly released figures from November 2023 indicate that England has a total capacity of 11,231 virtual ward beds. This translates to a virtual ward capacity of 21.9 per 100,000 of the GP-registered population aged 16 or over. Of those virtual ward beds, November saw England average a 70.2 percent occupancy rate.

Included within the statistics are figures for each ICB. Here, we can see that Black Country ICB is currently exceeding the 40-50 capacity target with virtual ward capacity of 50.4 per 100,000 people. Northamptonshire ICB is also exceeding the target with capacity of 50.5. Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes ICB is meeting the target, with 40.9 virtual ward beds per 100,000 people and Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin ICB with 46.4 per cent.

The statistics do not take into account other factors, such as patient demographics or socio-economic elements, but they do include an estimated population size for each ICB. Black Country ICB, one of the highest virtual ward capacities, is one of the ICBs to cover a population of over one million adults registered with a GP. Northamptonshire ICB is estimated to cover 669,366 adults, and Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes ICB 879,500.

To view the figures in full, please click here.

In September, we covered NHSE’s guidance on point of care testing for virtual wards and urgent community response; catch up here; we also reported on the technology procurement and developing specifications from NHSE here.

In August, we shared a survey from The Health Foundation examining public attitudes to virtual wards, and July saw us explore how virtual wards take focus in the first NHS Impact programme along with improved data use and standardisation.

Earlier in the year, we hosted a panel discussion on virtual wards and the future of remote care, in which our panellists discussed the national perspective, approaches from an ICS, lessons learned and more.