A virtual Covid ward which monitors a patient’s oxygen levels in their own home and helps them to leave hospital sooner has been praised by patients and their families.

A carefully selected group of patients recovering from Covid were discharged early, to their own home, with low flow oxygen via an oxygen concentrator and regular monitoring using a pulse oximeter. Patients were supported by a daily phone call from a specialist nurse.

The virtual Covid ward is run by a specialist team of respiratory nurses who monitor the progress of patients remotely across East Sussex. Patients have spent an average of 5 to 10 days on the virtual ward.  The team contacted patients daily to record to check on their symptom; general wellbeing and record their oxygen saturation. Any concerns were escalated to a consultant respiratory physician for advice and a hospital assessment arranged as necessary. So far, 12 patients have been supported on the virtual ward with 125 hospital bed days saved.

Feedback from patients shows universal satisfaction with comments like:

“I am so grateful to for your calls, I am so pleased I did not have to stay in hospital just to receive oxygen and I am happy to spend my recovery time at home.”

“Thank you for everything you have done, everyone has been very helpful and we have been pleased with the support.”

“I feel so supported by the team, thank you for all the phone calls it has been really reassuring.”

“Thank you to the team for enabling me to come home, I feel so much better.”

“You’ve been so supportive and given me great advice to help manage my breathlessness and I am very grateful.”

The virtual Covid ward was set up in a matter of day’s thanks the collaboration between clinicians, the ESHT Covid incident centre and IT team.

Dr Simon Merritt Respiratory Consultant and Chief of Medicine said: “Our virtual Covid ward has received a high level of satisfaction from patients. Everyone has expressed their gratitude, felt supported and have been reassured the whole time whilst they were at home. The virtual ward was set up at great speed when we were under considerable pressure and it success is tribute the great team work of everyone involved in setting it up. Our virtual ward supported patients at home and we were able monitor their condition helping to free up beds in the hospital. Based on the daily assessments we make a decision on their future care which might include, if required, coming back into hospital for more advanced treatment. Just one patient using our virtual Covid ward required readmission back to hospital.”

An oxygen concentrator is a device that concentrates the oxygen from a gas supply (typically ambient air) by selectively removing nitrogen to supply an oxygen-enriched product gas stream. A pulse oximeter is a small lightweight device used to monitor the amount of oxygen carried in the body. This non-invasive tool attaches painlessly to the patient’s finger, sending two wavelengths of light through the finger to measure the pulse rate and how much oxygen is in their system. Once the oximeter finishes its assessment its screen will display the percentage of oxygen in the blood coming from the heart as well as the patient’s current pulse rate. The patient records these readings and feeds them back to the nurse when they call.