Fingertip oxygen monitoring keeps more than 6,000 Covid patients safe
By Sarah Wood | 16th June 2022
More than 6,000 patients with Covid-19 in Gloucestershire have benefited from home-based oxygen monitoring.
The monitoring has helped them stay at home safely and receive the right support if their health deteriorates.
Blood oxygen monitoring is helpful for anyone who tests positive for Covid-19, particularly those who are vulnerable or clinically at-risk, such as people aged over 65, pregnant women, people with learning disabilities or those with long-term conditions.
Patients are given a pulse oximeter, a small device which they attach to their fingertip. This records their blood oxygen levels completely painlessly within seconds and patients are advised to do this at home for about 10 to 14 days. Patients can pick up a pulse oximeter from their GP surgery or a local Minor Injury and Illness Unit.
Patients who are unable to monitor their readings and condition at home or escalate their care to hospital when necessary are asked to send their oxygen level reading twice daily via an app to a clinical team on the Covid Virtual Ward, which reviews their readings.
This means that patients whose oxygen levels are falling, even if they show no outward symptoms, are identified and the Virtual Ward team will ensure that they access treatment swiftly.
This is particularly helpful as some patients with Covid-19 are unaware of how sick they are, due to a condition called silent hypoxia. When this happens, there is not enough oxygen making it to cells and tissues in the body, and people often do not show the usual symptoms of breathlessness or wheezing.
Patients can be referred to the Covid Virtual Ward through their GP, A&E or on discharge from other hospital wards. The ward also actively supports staff to monitor patients in care and residential homes.
Dr Hein Le Roux, deputy clinical chair at NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "Monitoring oxygen levels at home is really simple to do. It offers reassurance to patients that they are being monitored and helps to keep vulnerable people safe, by providing clinicians with important information about their risk of getting very ill.
"In Gloucestershire, over 6,000 patients have used the Virtual Ward so far and it has enabled us to identify over 1,000 unwell people who needed to be admitted to hospital.
"Those patients who were admitted to hospital stayed there an average of four days, which compares very favourably with the national average of seven days. Not only is a shorter stay beneficial for patients, but it also frees up hospital beds for very sick patients who need to be there."
Dr Jo Bayley, chief executive of G DOC, the county's GP provider company, said: "We know that people often recover best in their own home, but getting a diagnosis of COVID can feel frightening, especially for people who live alone. The Virtual Ward allows us to support people in their home; they feel reassured that help is available if they need it."
Ryan, a patient who was monitored on the Virtual Ward, said: "It just gave me the confidence that I was on the right track and that I wasn't on my own - they were there, reassuring me, every step of the way. I felt safe and reassured that a doctor was on hand. The service was fantastic."
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