Building a Better Health Service

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Virtual Wards in the Community

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Aware that our population is only going to continue to age, Clare Lewis and her team in HSE Primary Care Services in North Dublin realised that there needed to be a shift in our understanding of how we provide care to older people.


Working with partners in Beaumont Hospital’s Nursing and Midwifery Planning Development Unit and the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, they developed the country’s first Community Virtual Ward for older people. The multidisciplinary team, including specialists in gerontology and chronic disease management, palliative care, the Emergency Department, Community Intervention team, and the patient’s GP help older people to stay at home longer, and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.


“Patients live at home and we ensure that they get the care they need during critical periods of illness or decline, without having to go into hospital. We developed this new model to support our growing population of older people to remain at home for longer, and to reduce the number of unplanned admissions to overstretched hospitals,” explains Clare.


The new initiative is already improving quality of life for older people and their carers, and the number of Emergency Department admissions within this high-risk groups have been reduced by 87%.


The success of the project saw it shortlisted as one of the final seven in the Health Service Excellence Awards, and Clare is confident that the model can be applied to other areas such as palliative care or for those with mental health difficulties. “It could really help to change and evolve how we care for people, and give families the opportunity to have contact with the relevant professionals at the right time during that critical period,” she says.