More than 8,500 patients were being treated on virtual wards in the run-up to Christmas.

But the so-called hospitals at home are not a “silver bullet”, nurses said.

Figures from NHS Digital revealed some 8,586 patients in England were treated virtually in December, allowing most to have Christmas at home.

Virtual wards allow patients to receive care in their own homes, with clinical staff monitoring them remotely.

NHS England had set an ambition to roll out 10,000 virtual beds. It met the target in September.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said it was a real success story.

Wendy Preston, of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Virtual wards aren’t a silver bullet.”

“Patients still need to be able to see a nurse.”

The Department of Health said: “There are 50,000 more nurses caring for patients than in 2019.”

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