November virtual ward data: capacity and occupancy across ICBs

NHS England has published its latest data on virtual ward services across ICBs in England, indicating that as of November, four ICBs were meeting the target for services to include 40-50 virtual ward beds per 100,000 adults by the end of 2023.

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 figures released for November 2023 place the total capacity of virtual ward beds in England at 11,231, up from the 10,737 reported in October’s figures. This translates to a virtual ward capacity of 21.9 per 100,000 GP-registered population aged 16 or over, up from 20.9 in October 2023. Of those virtual ward beds, the November figures show an average occupancy rate across England of 70.2 percent.

The breakdown of virtual ward figures from each ICB shows that in November, Northamptonshire ICB and Black Country ICB exceeded the 40-50 capacity target, with virtual ward capacities of 50.5 and 50.4 per 100,000 people, respectively. Other ICBs meeting the target include Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin ICB, with a capacity of 46.4 per 100,000 people; and Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes ICB, with 40.9 virtual ward beds per 100,000 people.

From November’s figures, there were three other ICBs with capacity between 30-40: NHS Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB (38.2), Frimley ICB (33.7), and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly ICB (38.5).

Of the remaining ICBs, 14 had a capacity of between 20 and 30 per 100,o00 patient population; 20 had a capacity of between 10 and 20 beds per 100,000 patient population; and one had a capacity of less than 10 beds per 100,000 patient population.

To view the latest statistics in full, please click here.

In other news from NHSE, the NHS England board met on 5 December to discuss operational and financial performance, to provide an update on the Federated Data Platform, and the role of tech in the delivery of the primary care access recovery plan.

Elsewhere, NHS England has written to trusts, ICBs, and regional directors, outlining updates on planning for 2024/25. The letter states that although expectations and priorities for 2024/25 will not be published until later in the new year; “initial planning returns will be expected by the end of February” from providers.