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Robust governance of diagnostics on virtual wards of ‘paramount importance’

Robust governance of diagnostics on virtual wards of ‘paramount importance’
By Beth Gault
21 March 2024

Governance of diagnostics carried out on virtual wards should be as ‘robust’ as in a hospital care setting, NHS England has said.

New guidance for ICBs on access to diagnostics on virtual wards, published on 19 March, said that all virtual wards, no matter their structure or set up, ‘must have standard operating procedures in place for diagnostics’, with all access to diagnostics requiring ‘good underpinning governance’.

It stated that this was of ‘paramount importance’.

It said: ‘There should be clear clinical leadership, and standard operating procedures clearly setting out how patients access diagnostics and overall accountabilities.

‘It is expected that the governance underpinning any diagnostic tests and measures carried out on a virtual ward, whether that is in a setting such as same day emergency care (SDEC) or the patient’s home, is as robust as that underpinning patient care in a hospital. The team carrying out the tests must have all appropriate education and training, and any medical devices used in the home must be fit for purpose.’

The guidance outlined good practice on which tests should be available on virtual wards, including basic tests such as temperature, pulse and blood pressure, but also pathology laboratory tests, CT scans, X-rays and MRIs.

It also recommended that there be a specific member of staff responsible for ensuring that results are received in a timely manner and acted upon, and emphasised that the patient journey must be considered regarding the digital interoperability of test results.

It said: ‘Many patients who are admitted to a virtual ward will also be under the care of other health services and these will need access to the results of any diagnostic tests undertaken on the virtual ward.

‘All diagnostic results should be recorded on the patient’s electronic patient record, shared care record, and any other relevant recording system such as the picture archiving and communication system (PACS) for imaging results and the local information management system (LIMS) for pathology results.’

The guidance also set out best practice for patient safety incidents and the use of medical devices in a patient’s home.

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