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Over 120 people admitted to 4-star ‘Virtual Covid Ward’ at Leicester’s Hospitals

11 February 2021

UHL Virtual Ward - Oximeter
The oximeter technology that is supporting 'Virtual Wards'.

ast week, Leicester’s Hospitals opened its second ‘virtual Covid ward’. The first, which opened in October, has so far supported over 120 Covid patients from the comfort of their own home, proving that high-quality healthcare for patients with moderate symptoms needn’t be in hospital.

Covid is an unpredictable and at times fatal disease. For months at the beginning of the pandemic, patients with a Covid diagnosis found themselves admitted to hospital to be kept under observation. Now ten months on, with an improved understanding of the disease and better treatment options, this need no longer be the case.

When patients arrive on the ‘emergency pathway’ (through a 999 or 111 call) with moderate to severe symptoms like fever, breathlessness, or cough, their needs are assessed by a clinician. If a patient meets the clinical criteria for the virtual ward they can be sent home with a pulse oximeter, a machine that will read the oxygen saturation levels in their blood, rather than being placed in a hospital bed.

The oximeter enables the specialist team of respiratory nurses who run the ‘ward’ to monitor the progress of patients remotely. Patients are asked to take three readings a day and have regular calls with the nursing team to talk about their health and wellbeing. The nurses will follow these patients, and often their families, across a 14 day period charting progress and deterioration of symptoms on their patient record.

Some people experience mild deterioration in their oxygen saturation just walking to the phone, so it is not uncommon for nurses to take extra readings and extra phone-calls as they would do on a real ward to check that all is well. If a nurse is worried, a conversation with a consultant will help decide if the patient should be admitted to the clinical decisions unit at Glenfield Hospital. Just like on a hospital ward, it’s this important process that helps keep people safe.

In most cases of deterioration admission is not required and after 14 days of monitoring and support, the majority of people will be discharged from care having managed their symptoms at home. 

Respiratory consultant, Dr Daniela Cristea-Nicoara, who led on the implementation of the virtual ward programme said: “During the first wave, we feared the all too common reality of Covid - a sudden deterioration in health, and so many patients were admitted to hospital. With this wave, that doesn’t have to be the case, we know more about the disease and are better prepared to deal with the symptoms.

“When we consider that we’ve kept our patients safe and more comfortable, that we’ve been able to support their family, and help them manage their symptoms, and importantly they are satisfied with their care, to me it confirms that we are redefining what high-quality healthcare looks like.”

Patient feedback indicates that this type of care works as well for patients as it does for hospitals, with 90% satisfaction ratings from patients admitted to the ‘virtual Covid ward’.

Dr Nicoara added: “We have a fantastic team, and it’s great to see NHS feedback that reads like a 4-star hotel review with people saying not only that they felt cared for and reassured but that they would recommend us to family and friends and that they’d come back again!”

For more information please contact:

Maria O’Brien, Head of Communications07866 185667 | maria.obrien@uhl-tr.nhs.uk