Innovation of the Year Award win for Leicester's Hospitals Cardiology Team

The team picking up the award on the night - pictured with guest presenter Matt Lucas (far left)

A team who developed a ‘virtual ward’ to safely treat patients with an abnormal heart rhythm from their own homes in Leicester has been recognised for its innovative work with an award from the Health Service Journal.

The Atrial Fibrillation Virtual Ward team at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust took home the 'Acute Sector Innovation of the Year' Award on 16 November. 

Held in London, the annual awards with 24 categories recognise excellence in healthcare.

Professor André Ng, Professor of Cardiac Electrophysiology and Head of Department of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Leicester and Consultant Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist at University Hospitals of Leicester, said: “It’s really very special to be recognised by the HSJ for our virtual ward.

“The whole team, which includes advanced nurse practitioners, clinical fellows and consultants as well as IT colleagues, has worked incredibly hard to make this a clinical success. We have been delighted to observe positive outcomes for our patients treated from the comfort of their own homes, avoiding the need for hospital admissions.”

Prior to the virtual ward, patients who came to hospital with a fast heart rate due to atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter were monitored for several days in hospital. The ‘virtual ward’ allowed them to return home with the heart rate-lowering medication they would usually get in hospital, and told to submit daily information using a smartphone app.

Their data, including ECG recordings, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and answers to an atrial fibrillation symptom questionnaire, was closely monitored by specialist doctors and nurses at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, who made treatment decisions remotely.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common form of abnormal heart rhythm and is believed to contribute to one in five strokes. One in 45 people in the UK are known to be living with the condition.

The researchers are using new funding from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to scope out the implementation of the virtual ward beyond Leicester to several other NHS England centres, continuing to test the strategy before it is rolled out across the whole NHS.