More than 30 patients at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge have swapped a stay in hospital this month for care at home on a virtual ward.

Patients on a virtual ward can be monitored constantly, with their vital signs recorded through the day and night thanks to smart phone apps, technology platforms and wearable medical devices.

At the same time, a team of senior nurses check in with patients up to four times a day by phone or video call, with face-to-face care from community-based teams also available.

By freeing up hospital beds, the virtual ward helps to improve the flow of patients through Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH), easing pressure on the emergency department and reducing waiting times.

Cancer patient Patricia Trigg, who is 67 and from Quendon, is one of the first to be looked after on the CUH virtual ward.

Patricia recently underwent intensive chemotherapy, and is recuperating while she waits for a stem cell transplant.

While in the past this would have meant many weeks in hospital, being monitored as her condition deteriorates, instead she and her husband Brian were able to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary at home.

Saffron Walden Reporter: Gemma Czech is the lead nurse at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust's virtual wardsGemma Czech is the lead nurse at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust's virtual wards (Image: CUH)

Patricia said: "Being looked after by the virtual ward team in my own home, with Brian by my side, makes an enormous difference to both of us. I can sit in my own lounge, sleep in my own bed and I’ve not once felt worried about whether I should be in hospital.

"I still go in for regular appointments and if I have any concerns while I’m at home, I just give Gemma and the team a call."

Brian Trigg added: "After looking after me for 50 years, it’s now my turn to look after her, with the help, care and support of the virtual ward team.

"I’m thrilled that she’s home and we could celebrate our wedding anniversary where we both belong."

A wide variety of patients can be looked after on the virtual ward, from patients with respiratory, gastro and frailty conditions to recovery from cancer treatment, neurosurgery and organ transplants. 

All patients are carefully selected to make sure their needs can be safely managed remotely.

The virtual ward enables patients to benefit from the comfort of their own surroundings, sleeping in their own bed, eating their own food and being in the company of their family, friends and pets.

Being at home often speeds up patients' recovery and reduces the risk of hospital acquired infections.

Gemma Czech, who is the lead nurse for the virtual ward, said: "Our team includes a range of expertise including senior nurses and physiotherapists and links directly with consultants and specialist clinics from across the hospital as well as services in the community.

"We are there for patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ensuring they get the best care, in the best place for them. If any of our patients has any concerns, or just needs some reassurance, we are always available to talk to on the phone."