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Hospital trust’s virtual hospital model praised by senior health leaders

Posted: 7 September 2022

Picture of Sir David Sloman, Jane Halpin and colleauges

Pictured above from left to right: Dr Kevin Barrett
(divisional medical director at CLCH), Dr Jane
Halpin (CEO
 for Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care Board),
Dr Mike van der Watt (chief medical officer at WHTH),
Sir David Sloman (chief operating officer at NHS England),
 Dr Niall Keenan (WHTH consultant cardiologist)
 and Jessica Peplow (heart failure clinical lead at CLCH)

Senior health leaders have praised hospital and community-based clinicians for their impressive results in caring for patients via a ‘virtual hospital’ model.

The result of close partnership working between West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (WHTH) and Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust (CLCH), supported by modern technology, is that an increasing number of people now receive expert clinical care from the comfort of their own homes.

The UK’s first virtual hospital model was established in 2020 to prevent Watford General Hospital from becoming overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has since expanded to care for heart and respiratory conditions and is seen by many health professionals as leading the way. So much so that the chief operating officer of NHS England (Sir David Sloman) and the chief executive for Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care Board (Dr Jane Halpin) visited on Friday 2 September to find out more.

Dr Mike van der Watt (pictured) – chief medical officer at WHTH – said: “Our virtual hospital began by giving equipment and instructions to COVID-19 patients in their own homes to help us monitor their health. As time passed, we built more technology into this and created a sophisticated system that tracked results carefully, alerting us when we needed to increase the level of care.”

“We have gone from strength to strength and have expanded this model to other specialties, saving valuable NHS beds and enabling people to stay in their own homes. We have treated over 7,000 patients so far through the virtual hospital model. And, as well as excellent patient feedback, we have also seen great clinical outcomes.”

“We are proud of this innovative way of working which embraces technology, improves the experience of our patients and – most importantly – keeps them safe.”

Nearly 300 patients with a type of heart failure and respiratory conditions have now been seen via the virtual hospital model.

Sir David said: “This virtual hospital model is a fantastic example of embracing innovation while providing safe and high quality care for all. The lives of thousands of people have been improved, and it’s a remarkable achievement between health partners in west Hertfordshire.”

Dr Halpin added: “We were pleased to be able to bring together health and social care leaders from across Hertfordshire and west Essex to meet Sir David and discuss plans for dealing with the pressures we will face this winter. He heard about some really innovative partnership work, as well as finding out about the challenges we face and the support we need. Sir David was able to see some of the community health improvement work led by Watford FC’s Community Trust, which helps ease pressures by keeping people well, physically and mentally. And when people do fall ill, the virtual hospital gives them first-class care from their own homes, freeing up beds for those who need them. All of this will help us to support our communities this winter.”

  1. The WHTH COVID-19 ‘virtual hospital’, established in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, enabled COVID-19 patients to recover at home whilst keeping the respiratory team looking after via an app. This meant that patients could be treated from the comfort of their own homes while freeing up hospital beds for patients who needed them the most. Strong links and support from partners in the community meant that local nurses could visit patients at home, keeping them safe and well cared for. Key indicators of patient safety such as death rates and readmission to hospital were impressive. The trust also received excellent feedback from patients who much preferred to recover in their own homes.
  2. For more information, please contact the communications team on: 01923 436280 or email: For out of hours media enquiries please call the Watford General Hospital switchboard on 01923 244366 and ask for the on call communications manager.
  3. West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust serves people from across Hertfordshire, north London and further afield. It operates from three hospitals; Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead. The trust has a catchment area of over 500,000 people and is one of the largest employers locally, with around 5,000 staff and volunteers.
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