Supporting South East London to maximise virtual ward capacity ahead of winter 

Background and objectives

A key part of the NHS national winter plan for 2023/24 is to implement and increase the number of virtual wards, helping reduce the pressure on the physical NHS estate.  

Each Local Care Partnership in South East London (SEL) had a virtual ward programme in place but services have varying levels of occupancy. The majority of referrals to the virtual wards came from step-up pathways within the community and there were varying levels of understanding of and trust in the virtual ward services available, particularly among acute teams.

The SEL virtual ward team spotted an opportunity to enhance system-wide buy in, increase utilisation and maximise virtual ward capacity to support acute flow for winter 2023/24. We were commissioned to facilitate a summit for acute, virtual ward and community teams to:​

  • increase understanding of the virtual ward services available
  • identify the current barriers to high occupancy of virtual ward beds and the actions to start to overcome these barriers 



In the weeks leading up to the event, we worked closely with the virtual ward team to co-design an interactive and engaging event to meet the agreed summit objectives. 

The programme included: 

  • strategic advice and guidance in the design of content based on local and national context 
  • sessions to enhance the virtual ward model and assess attendee understanding of the model
  • opportunities and barriers discussions between clinical, service management and ICB colleagues 

For smooth facilitation of the session, we provided briefing content to senior clinical leaders, provided attendees with patient and clinician case studies and ran sessions using digital tools.

Event support 

The Blue Lozenge team hosted and facilitated the session providing a detailed report for the ICB team to share across the system and to use as a component part of their winter planning for 2023/2024. 

We sourced a well-located venue in South East London (Greenwich) to support accessibility, particularly for clinicians and locally based colleagues, managing all venue liaison and catering. 

Our experienced event engagement team managed all communication from the original invites, confirming and briefing attendees, grouping and registration through to providing immediate follow-up using our Eventbrite system. 

We took care of all on-the-day logistics, ensuring that the ICB team and facilitators we able to focus on engaging with colleagues and delivery of the session. 


The event was a great success. We ensured a 63% conversion rate of pre-selected invitees with just under 60 colleagues attending the event, representing all areas of the ICS and in line with the numbers on the day that the ICB wanted to achieve. Attendees confirmed that their knowledge of virtual wards increased during the day and all invitees were sent follow-up information. 

Of the attendees, 

  • 51% said they were now more easily able to identify when a patient might be suitable for a virtual ward referral 
  • 73% said they would use what they had learnt in the future 

Each locality left with a list of actions to implement in advance of winter 23/24, and a list of longer-term actions. Outputs from the session were used by South East London ICB for an NHS England submission and local winter planning session.


“Just what I needed!

“Despite limited time leading up to the event, Blue Lozenge helped to prepare and facilitate a professionally run summit. Facilitation on the day was spot-on and took into consideration the diversity and experiences of multiple stakeholders and in doing so ensured delivery of our desired outcomes and outputs. Feedback from stakeholders was enthusiastic all around and I would recommend Blue Lozenge.”

Ekuba Edjah Assistant Director – South East London Virtual Wards


If you need comms support to improve understanding and effective use of virtual wards in your area, contact

Project details


South East London Integrated Care Board 

Project type

Strategic consultancy, guidance, event management and facilitation