A ‘hospital at home’ ward is being opened for children to be treated where possible without having to be brought by ambulance to A&E.

The plan is being implemented by NHS chiefs at Queen’s and King George hospitals to help cut waiting times at A&E.

It follows the success of a ‘virtual hospital’ ward for the elderly through the winter months treating more patients in their own homes this year than ever before.

Half the hospitals’ elderly patients were treated in their own homes compared to only a third last winter.

It helped reduce queues in A&E for other patients needing urgent treatment, while also reducing risk of the elderly losing their independence, the NHS hospitals trust for Barking, Havering and Redbridge points out.

This is despite Queen’s having the biggest rise in ambulance calls in the UK in the 12 months to January with 700 more patients brought to A&E, according to latest NHS figures. King George also had an increase of 200 ambulance calls.

“We still have a long way to go,” hospital trust chief executive Matthew Trainer admitted. “Some patients continue to wait too long when we are busy.

“But our ‘hospital at home’ system is providing better care in a more suitable home environment while making room for others needing emergency care to get treated faster in A&E.”

The ‘virtual’ ward treating patients at home rather than in hospital has its own consultants, therapists and nurses. More than 200 ‘home’ patients have benefitted so far.

A second ‘hospital at home’ ward was opened in December for patients with acute respiratory infections.

Now the hospital trust is planning to open the children’s version this spring, using digital technology to increase the scope of medical teams to monitor the youngsters in their own home.

Other ideas which have been introduced at Queen’s and King George include ‘same day’ emergency care departments to reduce the numbers having to be kept in overnight.