Service Spotlight: Virtual Wards

 

Our Virtual Wards provide support to people in their own homes who have long term physical conditions and a possible mental health issue. We met Tessa Lee, Mental Health Practitioner, to learn more about what they do…

What do you do?

We provide mental health advice and support to adults of all ages who suffer from one or more long term illness, who often have complex health needs or who are frequently in contact with healthcare services. This may include people who have had a stroke, and those who have parkinson’s disease, diabetes or heart problems.

Virtual Wards work with people for up to 12 weeks at a time while they require intensive support. As well as providing specialist nursing care, we work with individuals, carers, GPs and just about anyone else involved in a person’s care – from physiotherapists to dietitians – to provide education and advice around mental health issues. We complete home assessments but will refer people to our community mental health services if they need further treatment and support.

Our offices are located in community hospitals in Leatherhead, Epsom and Molesey and we see people in their own homes across Mid Surrey – from Esher and Cobham to Dorking and Banstead.

 

What is different about your service?

Our service is provided in partnership with CSH Surrey (www.cshsurrey.co.uk) who provide community matrons and therapists specialising in physical healthcare.

Prevention is better than cure, so education is a really important part of avoiding a crisis and staying independent. We help people get to know the signs and symptoms of their condition and what they can do to prevent them from getting worse - such as taking more of a certain medication.

This is a pioneering approach designed to to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions and to allow mental health needs to be fully considered in care plans.

 

Who works here?

Our Virtual Ward teams include community matrons and mental health practitioners covering Mid Surrey. This is part of a larger team which includes other specialists including district nurses, a social care team, respiratory nurses and others.

We meet regularly with our counterparts in other parts of the county and are supervised by a consultant psychiatrist but we spend much of our time working independently with our partners.

 

What’s the future?

It’s widely recognised that physical and mental health care problems are inter-related. For example, having a long term condition can affect your quality of life and in turn result in a low mood.

We’re doing more and more work to train our GP and community partners to spot the signs early on so people can get the help they need. We’re also working with staff within the Trust to promote the importance of physical healthcare in mental health.

 

Above: Virtual Ward mental health practitioners, who work across the county, with their Consultant Psychiatrist (back left). Tessa Lee is second from right.