COVID Oximetry @home

Pulse oximeters are being provided to patients as part of the NHS response to COVID-19. This service supports people at home who have been diagnosed with coronavirus and are most at risk of becoming seriously unwell.

If you are a patient or member of the public, please visit NHS UK for more information about looking after yourself at home, including information on pulse oximeters. If you have coronavirus and think you are eligible for the service, please contact your GP.

What is a pulse oximeter?

A pulse oximeter is a small medical device that is put on the tip of the finger, to check someone’s oxygen levels.

Pulse oximeters measure blood oxygen levels by transmitting light through a finger – they are more accurate than smart watches or phones which make less accurate readings by reflecting light off the skin.

Pulse oximetry can help with earlier detection of silent hypoxia, where people have low oxygen levels in the absence of significant shortness of breath. This can help ensure more timely hospital treatment if required.

Who should use a pulse oximeter?

The COVID Oximetry @home pathway should be available to people who are:

  • diagnosed with COVID-19: either clinically or positive test result and
  • symptomatic and either
  • aged 65 years or older or
  • under 65 years and at higher risk from COVID-19, or where clinical judgement applies considering individual risk factors such as pregnancy, learning disability, caring responsibilities and/or deprivation. Further information about clinical judgement can be found on FutureNHS. Please register for an FutureNHS account to access this information.

Pregnant women being referred to a COVID Oximetry @home service should also be asked to contact their maternity team for specific advice around pregnancy and COVID-19.

A lighter touch pathway should be available to any adult aged 18 to 64, who has tested positive and has not been double vaccinated. This pathway is fully self-managed and escalated.

How does COVID Oximetry @home work?

The use of pulse oximetry has been expanded as part of the NHS response to coronavirus. All clinical commissioning groups were recommended to set up services for eligible patients in November 2020.

The service is usually offered by general practice working alongside community teams. People are provided with a pulse oximeter and supporting information to monitor their oxygen saturation levels at home for up to 14 days, supported by carers and/or family members where appropriate.

People are offered regular prompts or check-ins to ensure they are confident in using the oximeter and that they know what to do if oxygen levels fall below normal levels. A patient diary and instructional video is available.

Clear guidance on what to do in case of any concerns (either via contacting the GP, 111 or attending A&E in case of emergency) is provided, with 24/7 access to advice and support.

If, after 14 days of the onset of symptoms, patients show no signs of deterioration with coronavirus, they are appropriately discharged from the service and given advice on returning the oximeter safely, and how to continue supporting themselves at home.

Resources for professionals

Resources for patients, carers and families

Other useful resources