An NHS health board is to trial a ‘virtual Covid ward’ to enable patients to get the care they need at home rather than being “stuck in a hospital bed”.

NHS Borders, which is operating the Covid ward from Monday 14 February until 31 March, said it was a “really positive step forward” for treating people with coronavirus.

Virtual Covid wards have already been operated in various health boards in the UK, including NHS Highland.

Patients will have a face-to-face assessment with clinician before being referred to the ward.

They will also receive a pulse oximeter to measure the oxygen in their blood and a diary to record their symptoms. 

There are three groups of patients who may benefit from being monitored in the Covid Virtual Ward:

  • Patients who are already in hospital because of Covid-19 and who are getting better
  • People who have presented at hospital because of Covid-19 and do need some treatment, but can do so safely at home
  • Patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 and are eligible for antiviral treatment

Patients on the ward will be contacted daily by a clinician to discuss their readings and symptoms.

They 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 ward would help patients experiencing mild symptoms.

She said: “In many cases Covid-19 causes a mild illness which does not require acute medical treatment, but for this group of people 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.”

She said the virtual wards are a “tried and tested way of caring for people safely”.

She added: “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.”

She said it would also help “free up space” in the Borders General Hospital to help restart activity that was paused during the pandemic.