New scheme to monitor high-risk Covid patients at home will 'save lives'
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People with coronavirus who are at high risk of developing serious symptoms are to be given devices to monitor their blood oxygen levels from home.
The Covid Virtual Ward scheme is being launched by Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG) to prevent people from developing silent hypoxia.
Reduced oxygen levels are associated with a much higher risk of dying from coronavirus or suffering in the longer term, but some people do not display symptoms, such as shortness of breath, until their oxygen levels are dangerously low.
Staff from Sirona care & health are using the pulse oximeter devices to monitor at-risk individuals including those with long-term health conditions and people with learning disabilities, and intervene if their oxygen levels fall below a certain threshold.
Pulse oximeter devices clip on a patient’s finger and use light beams to analyse blood oxygen levels. This data will be monitored by care home or community healthcare staff, and flagged for onward referral to GPs, or out-of-hours health services, if readings give cause for concern.
Health leaders say the scheme has the potential to transform the way they care for vulnerable people with coronavirus.
Ceridwen Massey, Sirona’s Associate Director for Specialist Services, said: “As a health and care system, we want to be able to intervene earlier when people’s oxygen levels start to fall and the oximetry devices, supported by community healthcare services, allow us to do that without needing to admit an individual to hospital or keep them in hospital just to be monitored.
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“We all know people recover best in their own home and this enables individuals to be with their loved ones but we are also able to keep an eye on their blood oxygen levels.
“It’s a really exciting development that will allow us to improve care for local people and ultimately save lives.”
Sirona is currently deploying up to 3,000 devices to local people through NHS volunteers.
The service currently covers people diagnosed with Covid, over 65 and symptomatic, or under 65 and clinically extremely vulnerable group or on the Learning Disabilities register.
Clinicians are keen to roll this service out to wider populations across Bristol North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.