A NEW 'virtual covid ward' to monitor patients at home is being rolled out across South Cumbria,

The Covid-19 ‘virtual ward’, also known as ‘pulse oximetry at home’, has been set up in response to the significant challenges and impact the pandemic has had on residents.

The at-home monitoring service will be available for those with a positive Covid-19 test result or clinical diagnosis of Covid within the last 14 days, who have coronavirus symptoms, and are identified as being particularly clinically vulnerable to having low blood oxygen levels due to their age or a pre-existing condition.

New systems are in place that will automatically send Covid-19 test results to GP practices as well as sharing them with the patient. This will give GPs visibility of which of their patients have had Covid-19 tests and whether they have tested positive or negative.

A senior clinician will review results daily and, if a patient is at risk from Covid-19, they will determine whether they would benefit from referral to the pulse oximeter at home service or whether alternative care arrangements may be more appropriate. This scheme will also help to ensure that hospital beds are available to those who need them most during the pandemic.

Patients being remotely monitored will be given a pulse oximeter so they can measure the oxygen levels in their blood several times a day.

Healthcare professionals will check-in on patients over the phone or through a mobile phone app.

Steve Tingle, director for digitisation of regulated care at Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System (ICS), said: “We have been working really hard to find innovative digital solutions to ensure that we are able to care for vulnerable people with coronavirus in their own homes, where it is safe to do so.

"This remote monitoring service will enable staff to monitor and check-in on these patients, whilst ensuring that they only need to go to hospital if it is necessary.

“We know that people with coronavirus who suffer even a slight drop in their oxygen levels can be at a heightened risk from the virus, which is why it’s vital that we monitor this.

"Pulse oximeters are a small device that clip painlessly onto the finger, and beams of light measure the amount of oxygen in the blood at the same time as measuring the patient’s heart rate.

"Full instructions are provided about how to use this equipment along with what to do should a patient see their oxygen level reducing.”