STRUCTURE: Living rooms in Surrey are becoming hospital wards in a scheme that aims to cut admissions.

The roll-out of the initiative – called the virtual hospital ward – is set out in a new report to Surrey County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee.

It features a team of specialists who provide hospital services in people’s own homes.

Those most at risk of having to go to hospital are identified and asked if they want to join the ward.

A community matron visits a patient and makes an assessment before working with the county council’s social services, GPs, mental health services, pharmacists and specialist nurses.

The virtual wards also work closely with palliative care staff, ambulance services, out of hours GP services and voluntary sector agencies.

Medical equipment, such as blood pressure monitors, can be installed in homes.

Emergency admissions to hospital are costly for the NHS and last year the King’s Fund estimated that £1bn a year could be saved on the use of hospital beds.

The initiative has been developed by NHS Surrey and Surrey County Council.

Nick Skellett, chairman of Surrey County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee, said: “This is a great example of organisations pulling together to provide better service. It prevents hospital stays, save public funds and, most importantly, gives people the care they want where they want it.”