Colchester/Tendring: Health bosses in discussions over extending scheme that sees more people treated at home instead of hospital

MORE vulnerable people in north-east Essex are set to be treated in their own homes after a radical pilot scheme was hailed a success.

Health bosses are in discussions to roll out the ‘virtual ward’ initiative to the whole of Colchester and Tendring.

The project has seen patients - often those with complex medical and social needs - treated at home instead of in hospital or at a doctor’s surgery.

The initiative has seen doctors, community nurses, social workers and voluntary organisations work together to provide ‘integrated’ care.

Dr Jo Broadbent, a consultant in public health at North East Essex PCT, said the scheme had improved patient care and reduced hospital admissions.

She added discussions were underway with the area’s clinical commissioning group and Essex County Council to roll out the project across north-east Essex.

But the scheme is not without its critics.

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Councillor Joy Broderick, who represents a Holland-on-Sea ward on Tendring District Council, said: “I think we’re sleepwalking into something quite dangerous here.

“This virtual ward concept is giving people an idea that there is a field hospital at their beck and call but it’s not like that.

“If you’re in hospital and something goes wrong with you, you have got nurses and consultants on hand. What do you do at home? If you fall you have got to just lie there.”

But Dr Broadbent said: “We have spoken to the patients and we have had very good feedback. They particularly liked the way it was joined up with healthcare and social care.

“We have looked at the impact of the patients going to hospital - where people don’t need to go to hospital we have managed to keep them in their own homes.

“It’s people with a number of different health and social care needs. It’s people with complex packages of care.

“It’s been really positive for the patients and in terms of the way the agencies have worked together.”

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