A 'virtual' hospital ward that allows patients to be treated at home will expand to five times its normal size this winter.

The Whittington Health NHS Trust's 'Virtual Ward' allows those in need to receive the care they need without occupying a hospital bed.

They are visited at home by community nurses and other healthcare professionals, while their care is overseen by a consultant.

In response to increased demands on urgent and emergency care services this winter, the service now has 20 ‘beds’ up from the normal eight.

As part of an North Central London Integrated Care System pilot it will be adding 20 more remote monitoring virtual beds over the coming weeks .

Whittington Health NHS Trust medical director Dr Clare Dollery said: “Hospital is fundamentally not the best place to care for people who don’t need immediate treatment and we know that no one wants to be in hospital any longer than they really need to be.

"The virtual ward service allows patients who don’t need to be in hospital but do require a level of support to avoid coming into hospital while still getting the treatment they need to recover."

The Virtual Ward Service works in partnership with colleagues in the hospital’s emergency department, medical assessment unit, the trust’s community teams and with social services teams across North Central London.

The service has helped to keep more than 20,000 people at home and out of beds at Whittington Hospital over the past 10 years.

Whittington Health not only provides the service to its own patients, but also University College London Hospitals Trust's Hospital@Home service and North Middlesex University Hospital and Barnet Enfield and Haringey NHS Trusts.