The Virtual Ward is a collaborative approach that aims to help patients control their diabetes and where appropriate reduce the number of visits from community nurses.
A Diabetes Specialist Nurse and Community Nurse supported by a Consultant meet monthly to discuss patients’ conditions and review medication.
Since launching last year, over 112 patients have had their medication and insulin regimes changed, helping them to better manage their condition.
The service has also saved more than 1,446 community nurse visits, the equivalent of 242 hours, which has allowed them to focus on other patients in need.
There has also been less GP involvement, fewer ambulance callouts and a smaller number of hospital admissions for diabetes based cases, helping to reduce pressure on the wider healthcare system.
Sheila Smyth, Chief Nurse for NEEDS, said they were very proud to be shortlisted for the award.
“We have a high prevalence of diabetes in North East Essex and an ageing population,” she said. “As a result, the community nurses found that their caseloads for insulin managed patients were increasing.
“At the same time, specialist nurse visits and hospital admissions were rising because patients were unable to manage their condition. It was putting the wider healthcare system under a lot of pressure.
“By introducing the Virtual Ward, we have tried to address that. Patients’ conditions are reviewed on a regular basis and there is greater coordination of patients receiving their essential diabetes healthcare checks.
“It means we can effectively monitor patients under the care of the community nursing teams to ensure there are receiving the most appropriate treatment regimes.”
NEEDS, which is delivered by Suffolk GP Federation, works alongside doctors’ surgeries and runs community clinics across Tendring and Colchester, providing care closer to home and educating patients on how best to manage their condition.
According to recent figures there has been significant improvement in the quality of diabetes care in the region since NEEDS started.
More than 7,500 patients (74.2%) with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are now receiving all eight annual health checks recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). This compares to just 40.1% three years ago.
The figures – confirmed by North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – also show an increase in the number of patients with blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels within a recommended range.
The Health Enterprise East Innovation Awards take place at Sturmer Hall near Haverhill on the Suffolk/Essex border on 20th September.