COVID virtual wards are being used as part of the NHS response to COVID-19. Virtual wards support safe and earlier discharge of coronavirus patients from hospitals. When moving from hospital to a virtual ward people are given a pulse oximeter and supporting information to monitor their oxygen levels at home.
How do COVID virtual wards work?
Virtual wards are already available in many areas of the country and have been expanded as part of the NHS response to coronavirus. The immediate rollout of virtual wards was recommended in January 2021.
Hospitals transfer people onto a virtual ward as agreed in their discharge plan. They are provided with a pulse oximeter, agreed remote monitoring arrangements and additional care and support as required. They are also contacted daily as they would be on a hospital based ward round.
Clear guidance on what to do in case of any concerns (either via contacting 111, the COVID virtual ward team, or attending A&E in case of emergency) is provided. They are also given a hospital contact to call for any advice or support between 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. At 14 days, or before if deemed clinically appropriate, the person can be discharged from the service.
The patient’s general practice should be informed, and their health record updated accordingly. People who continue to have coronavirus symptoms at 14 days should receive a further clinical assessment and action taken as clinically appropriate. A friend or family member, or a volunteer should also collect and return the oximeter for decontamination and reuse.
Resources for professionals
- COVID virtual ward letter and standard operating procedure – supporting immediate roll out of COVID ‘virtual wards’ as an option for earlier safe and supported discharge.
- Frequently asked questions – COVID Oximetry @home and COVID virtual wards
- Diabetes UK – Guidance for healthcare professionals on managing hyperglycaemia/diabetes in a COVID virtual ward.
- E-Learning for Healthcare – COVID introductory programme for the non-registered workforce
Please visit the COVID Oximetry @home page for further guidance documents, e-learning courses, partner information.
Support for patients, carers and families
- An NHS video featuring Dr Matt Inada Kim showing how to use a pulse oximeter at home. This video is also available in a number of alternative languages on the Health and Care video library.
- A patient diary including step by step instructions on using an oximeter and what to do in case of concerns.
- Translated and easy read versions of the patient diary are also available.
- This NHS animation shows how to use the pulse oximeter and diary and/or app provided.
- Leaflet: Suspected coronavirus (COVID-19): important information to keep you safe while isolating at home
- General information about looking after yourself at home when you have coronavirus is available on NHS UK, including information on pulse oximeters.