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Core Capabilities Framework for the workforce supporting Virtual wards (Including Hospital at Home) and Urgent Community Response Services

Introduction and background

Over the last two years, the Covid pandemic has put pressure on healthcare systems’. Providers have battled with caring for acutely unwell Covid patients and delivering a national vaccination programme, whilst continuing to provide services and addressing the backlog of diagnostic and elective procedures.

In response to the pandemic, there has been a period of rapid innovation and transformational change in service delivery. Virtual wards and Urgent Community Response amongst others have formed part of this service delivery.

In the last few months, plans to support the development of more virtual wards, including Hospital at Home services are being implemented. There are currently over 53 virtual wards already providing over 2,500 ‘beds’ nationwide, enabled by technology. The NHS has published guidance to support establishment or expansion of virtual wards, and additional guidance for acute respiratory infection virtual wards and virtual wards for those with frailty. The ambition is for systems to establish 40-50 virtual ward ‘beds’ per 100,000 population by December 2023.

Two-hour urgent community response teams provide assessment, treatment, and support to people over the age of 18 in their own home or usual place of residence who are experiencing a health or social care crisis, and are at risk of hospital admission within the next two to 24 hours. ​Assessment and care should start within two hours of the referral being made, with short-term interventions typically lasting under 48 hours.​ Teams are expected to work in an interdisciplinary way, and often consist of registered nurses, advanced clinical practitioners, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, support staff, social workers and paramedics, with support from other relevant professionals including GPs and geriatricians. ​

By April, all parts of England will be providing 2-hour UCR twelve hours a day, 7 days a week with ongoing scaling and workforce development required in the coming years to achieved expected impact for patients and services.

It is recognised that, a framework for skills and capabilities is urgently required to upskill staff for these services. A core capabilities framework to support the demographic of patients the services will be delivered to, will be developed with a targeted selection of training elements specifically for Virtual Wards and Urgent Community Response respectively. The framework will be delivered in one package but will have the 3 components of core capabilities (will have overlapping elements of VW and UCR) and a dedicated section for VW and another for UCR. This is because we recognise that although services may be delivered by same providers, they are not the same service – one is planned care and the other unplanned

Development of the framework

A Project Delivery Group comprising HEE and Skills for Health will provide project governance.

An Expert Reference Group will guide the development process and provide specialist advice and experience.  Membership of the Expert Reference Group will include representation from virtual wards and urgent community response services from across all NHS regions, including nursing and AHP professional groups.

The framework is due for completion by Summer 2022.

Registration of interest

To receive updates about the development of the framework and to be notified when it is ready to go out for wider consultation, please register your interest by completing the form below.

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