Low oxygen level in the blood is a recognised complication of the COVID-19 infection and one of the main reasons for people to be admitted to hospital for oxygen therapy and requiring further treatment.

Earlier detection of a dangerous drop in oxygen levels and faster intervention means that patients in the community will be identified sooner if their condition worsens and so will be treated more quickly if they need hospital care.

We can detect these changes in oxygen levels by means of a simple piece of equipment called a Pulse Oximeter, which is placed on the patient’s finger and gives a reading within a few seconds.

Oximeters will be given to people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and considered at higher risk from the disease but are not considered unwell enough to be admitted immediately to hospital– for example those with other underlying health conditions.

Patients will be loaned an oximeter and asked to monitor themselves for a period of 14 days, during which they will be asked to take their recordings three times a day, and communicate these readings, either via an SMS text messaging system or via telephone with a team at Dorset Healthcare who will be actively monitoring the patients readings and ensuring additional care is provided when it is needed. People will be called by trained staff every few days to check they are recovering.  Patients will be told when to seek medical help. This new service enables clinicians to assess the results regularly and make decisions on any future care more quickly.

Those in receipt of oximeters will also be given clear guidance on what actions to take outside of normal working hours if they notice a drop in levels. Out of hours care teams will be trained to respond, ensuring the provision of joined up care 24/7.

Across Dorset around 4000 oximeters will be made available for eligible patients through a variety of routes both from general practice, urgent care services and the hospitals.