SCHC Virtual Ward Evaluation

Pioneering Virtual Ward delivering end-of-life care at home

Pioneering Virtual Ward delivering end-of-life care at home image

St Columba’s Hospice Care have published a comprehensive service evaluation of their innovative Virtual Ward initiative, the first of its kind in Scotland.

Responding to existing service demands and adapting to anticipated pressures in the coming years, St Columba’s Hospice Care piloted the innovative Virtual Ward over a three-month period from 1 March to May 2023. During the trial the individuals and family members supported benefitted from daily, face-to-face, specialist medical and nursing assessment with additional support available seven days a week.

The Virtual Ward at St Columba’s Hospice Care provides support for up to 14 days for people in their own home or usual place of residence, who would otherwise require inpatient admission to a hospice or an acute hospital to meet their palliative care needs. The service is ‘virtual’ in that it aims to provide the same level of medical assessment and advice as would be offered to someone in the inpatient unit but is provided within their own home or place of residence.

St Columba’s Hospice Care Virtual Ward sits as part of the wider Hospice at Home team. The addition of the virtual ward service has been transformational for patients and families who have used the service, and for whom staying at home (or in their place of residence) has been a priority towards the end of an unstable, deteriorating illness which often requires daily review and intervention.


  • Enabling care to take place where it was preferred.  Family members frequently commented that allowing care to take place where it was desired was incredibly important. Patients were able to be in the place of their choosing.
  • Effectively managing symptoms.  With often unstable, complex, and deteriorating health conditions, the importance of managing symptoms is vital. Care and support that may otherwise have had to take place in the inpatient unit, or often in hospital, could be delivered at home with the virtual ward service.
  • Lifting the burden from families. The service helped families through often difficult, challenging, and fast-moving circumstances and allowed time to be with loved ones in their preferred setting. 

Mandy Murray, Hospice at Home Lead said: “Hospice care is about our people, our community and not just about our hospice building. We really care about supporting everyone who needs our care and ensure it’s of the highest standards possible. In ‘’Hospice at Home’’ this means we will come and meet you, support, and care for you for you wherever you call home.”

Dot Partington, Clinical Director, commented: “As our local population gets older, and the Hospice extends its reach, our Virtual Ward will be a crucial part of the care and support we provide to our communities across Edinburgh and East Lothian.  In 2023-23 we supported an increase of 40% more people at home compared to the previous year, and we fully expect this trend to continue.”

Read the full Virtual Ward Evaluation here.

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