Youngster can enjoy chocolate again thanks to virtual ward

13th Jun 2023

A 12-year-old boy can now eat chocolate again – thanks a new service at a West Midlands NHS Trust.

Alfie Waterhouse, from West Bromwich, suffers with chronic constipation and has other additional needs, but thanks to the children’s virtual ward team at Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, he was able to receive treatment in the comfort of his own home – and eat his favourite treat.  

Mum, Lisa Mannion from West Bromwich, said: “Alfie has undiagnosed additional needs. So, having the virtual ward means he is still getting his hospital treatments and support from the nurses within the comfort of his usual surroundings.

“Usually he has to limit the amount of sweet treats he has because of his constipation and at Easter this is always really sad as he can only have a tiny amount of chocolate.

“But because of this new service, he was able to receive the right care whilst still at home, which meant he could eat his eggs.

“He was also able to take part in activities that I had planned for the holidays, so it was nice that he didn’t have to miss out on those special moments.”

The Trust operates a virtual ward service for both children and adult patients. It allows them to receive the care they need at home safely and conveniently, rather than being in hospital. Patients will be monitored with one or a combination of phone calls, home visits and digital monitoring kits. Each virtual ward has a doctor assigned to them, just like a hospital ward – meaning each patient receives constant care in their own home.

Lisa continued: “The nurses would ring me daily for the first few days and then dropped down to every other day – they were all fantastic. I knew if there were any concerns or if I needed help that I could ring one of them. Alfie’s medication was prescribed and given by Sandwell Hospital.

“Having this virtual ward service has been a real blessing, regardless of whether you have a child with additional needs or not. For me and my family it was a godsend over Easter.”

Chloe Nethercott, Virtual Ward Nurse, said: “I supported Alfie with his treatment at home, helping him avoid a hospital admission. His family would have struggled with a hospital stay due to his additional needs, so being at home was much better for his emotional wellbeing.

“We kept in touch with his mum so she always knew there was someone available at the end of the phone for support if needed. I reassured her by going through the medication Alfie should be taking, what foods he needed to eat and what to avoid.

“Hearing the lovely feedback from Lisa makes it all worthwhile and shows how important the virtual ward is.”

Sophie Harris, Clinical Nurse Specialist for the service, added: “We are a new service and constantly developing, so it is lovely having such encouraging feedback from one of our families and really demonstrates what we as a team are striving to achieve. 

“Over the past six months since our service was launched, we have helped over 150 children be discharged early from hospital to be looked after at home and are now a seven-day service. We cannot wait to continue with this progress and hope to have many more positive stories from the families we work with in the future.”

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