COVID Oximetry @home and Virtual Wards

Patient Safety Collaboratives (PSCs) are supporting healthcare systems to prepare for the expansion of virtual wards across England, a way of helping people to safely manage their care at home, rather than in hospital.

COVID Oximetry @home and COVID Virtual Wards are two national projects that were launched in late 2020 and early 2021 as part of the response to the pandemic.

Both projects aim to provide extra support for patients suffering from COVID-19 to enable them to be safely cared for in their own homes.

In January 2022, the standard operating procedures for COVID Oximetry @home and Virtual Wards (for COVID, Frailty and Respiratory Infections) have been revised and sent to system leaders, reflecting the surge in positive cases.

In 2020/21, Patient Safety Collaboratives supported the successful national roll-out of pulse oximeters in their local health and care systems, as part of the national COVID Oximetry @home and virtual ward models.

What is a COVID Virtual Ward?

This model is aimed at patients recovering from COVID-19 in hospital beds who are improving and can be safely cared for in their own homes with support from an expert clinical team overseen by a senior doctor, or for patients coming to an emergency department where, although they don’t need admitting, the clinical team feel they need further monitoring at home. Before being sent home, these patients will be assessed as suitable, provided with a pulse oximeter and will have a clear plan in place with daily monitoring and escalation arrangements in case their condition deteriorates.

After a period of supported care, if the patients are well enough, they will be discharged from the scheme or if not, they may stay on for further care. They may also be referred for help with long-COVID symptoms.

Follow the link to read the revised guidance on COVID Virtual Wards (Updated December 2021)

Frailty Virtual Wards

Frailty Virtual Wards, otherwise known as Hospital at Home, provide a safe alternative to hospital for patients living with frailty through community-based acute health and care delivery. Central to this approach is services working towards providing a model that is patient centred, and in which home is an option for care. This is part of the shared decision making process, in line with personalised care principles.

Follow the link to read the latest guidance on Frailty Virtual Wards (published December 2021) to include caring for Frail patients with COVID-19.

Acute Respiratory Infection Virtual Ward

Patients presenting with suspected acute respiratory tract infections (ARIs), including COVID-19, form a significant proportion of urgent care, general practice attendances and hospital admissions. ARI virtual wards build on the learning from COVID-19 virtual wards. They support personalised care for adults with confirmed or suspected ARIs, including COVID-19, who are stable or improving but require acute care, and facilitate elective recovery. They do this by providing an alternative pathway to hospital admission and/or a safe early discharge pathway for patients who require ongoing monitoring, enabled by digital technology, in the place a person calls home, including care homes. The model is underpinned by clinical monitoring, patient education and empowerment, and access to timely specialist advice and guidance as required.

Follow the link to read the latest guidance on Acute respiratory infection Virtual Ward (published December 2021)

What is Covid Oximetry @ home?

COVID Oximetry @home models have been established to provide patients with a means of monitoring their own blood oxygen level (with a pulse oximeter) in their own homes. The aim of the model is to support patients with symptomatic COVID-19 infection who do not require hospital admission but would be considered at greater risk of deterioration. Use of pulse oximetry (non-invasive blood oxygen monitoring), provides the opportunity to detect a potential decline in a patient’s condition before they develop worsening symptoms and as such enable timely clinical review and appropriate treatment.

Read the Standard Operating Procedure here (Published March 2021)

Guidance for patients can be found here

National Learning Network

These monthly webinars are open to any health and care professionals with an interest in the further development of virtual wards. Co-hosted by the AHSN Network, they will include a combination of practical experience from around England and national leaders, working to coordinate approaches. You will hear from colleagues around the country developing services and pathways, and from NHS England and NHS Improvement on the development of the latest national guidance.

Future dates

  • Tuesday 15 February, 1.00-2.00pm
  • Tuesday 15 March, 1.00-2.00pm

To get the links to join, slides and other information from previous webinars please access via the FutureNHS platform (see below).

Community of practice

The ‘Virtual Wards enabled by technology‘ programme is now live. This e-learning session provides an overview of learning for registered clinicians working on a VW. It also includes links to national guidance and clinical pathway resources

Further information is available in a dedicated online platform hosted on FutureNHS. It includes toolkits and a wealth of additional resources, including recordings of the learning network webinars.

If you are not already a member of FutureNHS, register here and then search for and request to join the ‘National Deterioration Forum’ workspace.

For more information please contact or in the Yorkshire & Humber PSC.

Take a look at the video below to find out more about Pulse Oximeters.