When it comes to a holistic approach to meeting the health and social care needs of patients, the Cwmtawe Cluster has ‘virtually’ all the right answers.
Two of the cluster’s GP practices – Cwmtawe Medical Group and Strawberry Place Surgery – are employing a virtual ward approach towards patients in order to match health care services to individuals.
A virtual ward sees a range of health care professionals, pool their resources and expertise to take part in a weekly online meeting to discuss patients in the community- who may be deemed frail, have complex conditions, have recently been discharged from hospital or are potentially at risk of having to go into hospital.
The move is in line with the cluster’s mission of treating people within their own community and helping take the strain off our hospitals.
Cwmtawe Cluster Occupational Therapist, Katy Silcox, said: “A virtual ward is a weekly multidisciplinary team meeting involving primary care, secondary care, community and voluntary services who combine their expertise to discuss how to manage and support patients and care givers within their community.
“Patients can be referred into the virtual ward by any professional across all sectors using a very simple referral form.
“Using each area of expertise we discuss individuals to find out what their functional, medical and social issues are. We focus on what matters to that patient and devise a patient centred, holistic care plan for each person to keep them empowered, independent, safe and healthy.”
The feedback on the concept, which was first introduced last March, has been positive.
Katy said: “It’s still a fairly new concept in the Cwmtawe Cluster and we are delighted and extremely grateful for the range of expertise involved in the Virtual Ward which is having a positive impact on patients’ health and wellbeing.
“The patients and care givers value it, they feel listened to and appreciate the input of a wider range of professionals.’’
Ruth Rice, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner at Strawberry Place Surgery in Morriston, welcomed the introduction of a virtual ward claiming it improved patient care.
Ruth said: “It’s all-round holistic care for the patient. Instead of us going to all different areas, and trying to make contact with people, we can get everyone under one roof.”
Cwmtawe Cluster Lead, Dr Iestyn Davies, said: “One of the founding principles of clusters is to safeguard the health and wellbeing of individuals and help them live a long and fulfilling life, wherever possible in their own communities, without the need to go to a hospital.
“The virtual ward is an excellent example of health care professionals and services combining their skills and expertise to achieve this principle and, at the same time, take pressure of our stretched secondary care.”
The Virtual Ward includes input from teams including GPs, Pharmacy, Community Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Social Services, Swansea Council for Voluntary Service, District Nursing, Palliative Care and Older Adults Mental Health.