Measuring patients with a pulse oximeter when they go for covid testing is the first step in monitoring patients’ oxygen levels. Measuring oxygen levels while patients continue to monitor their symptoms is also important.

NHS England has bought more than 200,000 pulse oximeters for distribution around the country. These are to be used in the community, including being provided to high-risk patients self-monitoring at home in covid virtual wards.

Healthcare professionals, including nurses, GPs and pharmacists, will need to be ready to show carers, members of the public and patients how to use the oximeters correctly and to understand how to read the measurements.

For patients with covid or suspected covid the crucial measurements are:

  • heart rate or pulse (beats per minute)
  • oxygen levels (saturations)

Health Education England has produced a video animation that explains how to use the pulse oximeter and keep the diary.



What virtual wards mean for patients

Researchers Cecilia Vindrola, Professor Naomi Fulop and Professor Trish Greenhalgh have published an article explaining virtual wards from the patient's viewpoint. They tell patients that they can learn how to measure their own oxygen levels, how to do it and what to do if their readings are low.


In the video below, Dr Inada-Kim talks about the importance of recognising the early signs of deterioration in all conditions, not just in covid-19. He explains some of the tools that can be used to educate and guide patients to play an active role in their own remote monitoring.