Health chiefs in west Herts are looking to build on the success of their ‘Covid virtual hospital’, by offering a similar service for patients with heart failure and pulmonary disease.

During the pandemic almost 4,500 Covid-19 patients were treated in their own homes as part of the ground-breaking 'virtual hospital', set up by consultants from Watford General.

Patients submitted their own pulse and oxygen saturation readings throughout the day, while remaining in their own homes.

And instead of traditional ward rounds, doctors spoke to their patients by phone or video conference.

Respiratory consultant Dr Matthew Knight, who conceived, designed, and delivered the virtual project, was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen’s Birthday 2020 Honours List.

Now it has emerged that the West Herts Hospitals Trust is looking to develop similar virtual hospitals for patients with heart failure and pulmonary disease too.

Trust medical director Dr Michael Van der Watt – a cardiology consultant – revealed the plan on Wednesday at a meeting of the county’s health scrutiny committee.

A report detailing the success of the Covid virtual hospital acknowledged the potential to transform the way care is delivered in other areas – reducing admissions and shortening hospital stays.

Dr Van der Watt said: "We were one of the first in the country to set one up to deal with patients with covid who were borderline for admission. Over 4,500 patients went through that facility.

“What we have learned from that is that there are quite a few conditions that you can treat at home, that previously you would treat in hospital.

"And so we are about to launch a virtual hospital for heart failure and a virtual hospital for patients with pulmonary disease, in collaboration with our community system and with our primary care. So that is really exciting work that is just in development now."

Despite the moves towards the new virtual hospitals, the trust also acknowledged that out patient appointments would continue to include face-to-face appointments – particularly for a patient’s first visit.

Deputy chief executive Helen Brown said virtual appointments would only be used "where appropriate".

And Dr Van der Watt said: "I think its really important to realise you can’t practise as good medicine virtually as you can face-to-face – because you can’t examine the patient.

"And so I think the direction is going to be that new patients will predominantly still be seen face-to-face – because you need to examine the patients."