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How a research project helped to transform care for Covid patients across the NHS

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Professor Michael Boniface from ARC Wessex was working with Consultant Dr. Matt Inada-Kim at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust looking at ways of using data and monitoring devices to help care for people safely at home.

As the pressure was growing on hospitals Professor Boniface had been working with University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust on modelling the number of emergency admissions from Covid patients to help hospital managers there predict the demand on beds. Using some of this knowledge and observations from doctors and consultants across the NHS, Professor Boniface and Dr Inada-Kim were able to identify risk indicators that showed serious decline in covid patients.

A drop in blood oxygen levels was a clear indicator that patients were getting more seriously ill from Covid-19 and would need more urgent care.

Working with that knowledge and using the data from covid cases it was possible to identify those people most in need of hospital admission following a positive test for the disease.

Professor Boniface and Dr Inada-Kim worked on a care pathway that would allow people with covid to be cared for at home and monitored using a oximeter device. Those people that showed any deterioration, a drop in blood oxygen levels shown by the oximeter, could then be admitted to hospital for more intensive support. Those that showed more normal levels of blood oxygen levels could safely be cared for at home by community NHS services.

This care pathway and joined up NHS care allowed patients with more serious illness to get hospital care when they needed it, and allowed patients with less needs to be cared for safely at home.

The result was to prioritise those hospital beds for the most seriously ill covid patients, and reduce the high demand on hospitals during the pandemic.

Hospitals were still under enormous pressures from the pandemic and this care at home option was recommended widely by NHS England to help with demand.

The project called Covid Oximetry at home has now been adopted widely in the NHS and has created new opportunities for patients with respiratory illness to be cared for safely at home.

Professor Michael Boniface explains how the research took shape