A London GP is campaigning for oxygen saturation probes to be distributed to homes across the country's capital, which has been worst hit by Covid 19, to prevent ‘silent’ hypoxia killing thousands of patients.
Covid 19 can lead to a dangerously low drop in oxygen levels in the blood and Dr Sharon Raymond says many deaths could have been prevented with a simple home test. While a patient might seem responsive, they are actually hypoxic - meaning their oxygen levels may be low enough to lead to death in the most severe cases.
In a bid to help prevent these unnecessary deaths by identifying cases of silent hypoxia early enough, she wants the Mayor of London to support the provision of oxygen saturation monitors (probes) so that members of the public with suspected Covid can check the oxygen levels in their blood at home.
These simple electronic devices, which clip onto the finger and give a percentage reading, are a vital tool to help guide patients, and when clinicians are making remote assessments of a patient’s condition (i.e. by phone or video) to help guide whether urgent/emergency medical help is needed.
Fleet of Covid cabs to reduce pressure on ambulance service
She has put together a team called Covid Crisis Rescue, who have raised nearly £100,000 through a Just Giving page. With the funds raised they have distributed thousands of items of PPE as well as the oxygen saturation monitors.
Part of the campaign also relates to supporting the establishment of a fleet of Covid Cabs to serve as a means of transporting patients to hospital or Covid hot hubs in cases where the patient does not have private transport. The goal is to limit virus spread to unprotected cab drivers by using a regular cab, as well as to reduce the pressure on the London Ambulance Service.
Dr Raymond said: "Covid 19 can cause silent hypoxia, such that neither patient nor assessing clinician may be aware that oxygen levels are low. Many consultations are now remote rather than face to face, and tools for physical assessment are very limited.
"The probes provide a means of measuring oxygen levels, which when taken in context with the patient's symptoms and general condition, guide the assessing clinician as to the level of need for urgent/ emergency face to face assessment. The probes can therefore assist in initial and follow up clinical assessments by GPs/paramedics, and hospital doctors following patient discharge from hospital with Covid 19.
"The probes are relatively inexpensive devices as compared to the costs attached to urgent/ emergency care for a patient who is in the 'worried well' group, and the device would help identify these patients."
Simple screening tool to advise if medical help is needed
She advises the use of a simple screening tool to guide people as to whether they should get medical help, rather than relying solely on oxygen probes when they are concerned regarding their breathing/ general health due to Covid symptoms.
If they answer yes to any of these questions they should get medical help:
- Do you have any trouble with your breathing?
- Do you have any chest pain or tightness?
- Do you have any severe weakness?
- Do you feel generally very unwell?
She adds that those using the device should obtain guidance from a clinician regarding how to use it, and what their expected levels are, bearing in mind that some patients have underlying health problems which will mean that their oxygen saturation levels are generally lower than those expected in a healthy individual.
Oxygen saturation measurements should be measured at rest, and after mild exertion. It has been observed that patients with Covid-19 can often present with exertional dyspnoea, and a lowering of oxygen saturation following relatively mild exertion.
The Just Giving page is https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/coronavirus-fightback