OLDER people who were cared for at a Worcester hospital will now receive care in virtual beds in their own homes, say health chiefs.

Bosses at NHS Worcestershire approved the decommissioning of the Aconbury unit at Worcestershire Royal Hospital at a meeting at Redditch Town Hall.

The unit contained 76 beds, of which only 48 are in use, but it will close on August 1.

The block was used to help rehabilitate people who had suffered strokes and falls and beds were mainly taken up by older people, some with dementia.

Aconbury will be replaced by 64 beds – 29 with 24-hour nursing care for people who need help with washing, feeding and toileting.

There will be seven in residential care for those who need 24-hour rehabilitation, 20 step down beds for those awaiting a care home placement, 30 ‘virtual beds’ in people’s homes, where people are cared for by the community stroke rehabilitation team, and eight beds with intensive home support.

NHS Worcestershire is spending £1million on these plans, and Sandra Brennan, the trust’s director of clinical development and executive nurse lead, said: “This is a really exciting opportunity to develop services that are closer to people’s homes.

“Unfortunately sometimes older people and those people with dementia end up in A&E for what could be a fairly minor problem but because of their condition they will be admitted.

“That means they start to lose their independence. What we would like to do is set up some virtual beds in people’s homes so we could discharge them quickly from A&E.

“Our evidence suggests that would result in reduced stays in acute hospitals and reduced admissions into long-term care.”

Tony Hadfield, a non-executive director at the trust, said: “The right home for this care is not the acute hospital sphere.

"There’s a great danger that people with dementia can get stranded in the acute sector.

“This is moving things into the right place so we can get the right focus on producing the quality outcomes for these people.”