From Monday, February 14, NHS Borders will operate what’s known as a “Covid Virtual Ward”, which will allow three groups of patients to be monitored at home instead of in the hospital.
According to the local health board, the scheme, which is already used in other areas, will benefit patients already in hospital because of Covid-19 and are getting better; people who have come to hospital because of Covid and do need some treatment, but can get that safely at home; and patients who have tested positive for Covid and are eligible for antiviral treatment.
Before being referred to a virtual ward, patients must have a face-to-face assessment from a clinician, and they will be given a leaflet describing how it all works and a pulse oximeter, a piece of equipment which measures oxygen saturation of the blood, and shown how to use it.
They’ll also be asked to keep a diary of their symptoms, and will be contacted every day by a clinician to discuss their readings and how they are feeling. Patients will also receive a number to call if they need advice or support, or feel that their condition is getting worse.
Medical director Dr Lynn McCallum said: “The introduction of the Covid Virtual Ward is a really positive step forward in caring for patients who have Covid-19.
“In many cases Covid-19 causes a mild illness which does not require acute medical treatment, but for this group of people it does need to be closely monitored. Rather than being stuck in a hospital bed, in the virtual ward this monitoring takes place in the comfort of your own home, safe in the knowledge that you can get in touch with a clinical professional immediately if you need to.
“I want to reassure people that virtual wards are a tried and tested way of caring for people safely. Although this is a new development in the Borders, patients with Covid-19 have been looked after in this way from the onset of the pandemic. As part of the assessment process before someone is admitted to the virtual ward we make sure that they fully understand what they need to do and that they are able to do it.
“As well as being a better experience for the patient, introducing a Covid Virtual Ward means that we can free up space in the BGH to help support the restart of activity that has had to be paused during the pandemic and the most recent Omicron wave, so this is really good news for everyone.”
The Covid Virtual Ward will be trialled initially until 31 March 2022.