THE south's paramedics have become the first in the country to supply coronavirus patients with home oxygen monitoring kits.

South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) is giving Covid-19 patients the kit if they don’t require immediate admission to hospital but are at higher risk of complications.

The initiative, which began in Hampshire but is now running across the Thames Valley region, will ensure patients who have mild symptoms can monitor their oxygen levels and know when to seek help.

The patients to receive the kit will be those with other risk factors such as those over the age of 65, those with cancer, or those with other health conditions.

The packs contain a pulse oximeter device, a symptom diary and a set of strict guidelines and are only distributed to patients who require emergency assessment by the ambulance service.

It aims to help give patients an early warning sign of deterioration before the onset breathlessness following research from clinicians at SCAS, who identified that just a slight drop in blood oxygen levels - but within the normal range - could be a sign.

The team, which included SCAS Medical Director Dr John Black and Divisional Medical Director Professor Charles Deakin, studied almost 20,000 patients who called for an ambulance between March 1 and July 31 last year.

They then analysed the oxygen levels of 1,080 confirmed Covid positive patients at the point they were initially assessed by paramedics at home.

Patients whose blood oxygen levels dropped only one per cent to two per cent below 96 per cent - still within the normal range of 94 per cent to 98 per cent - and showed no signs of shortness of breath often went on to require admission to intensive care and had a lower chance of survival.

“Our original research helped to inform the wider rollout of the COVID Oximetry @home project to enable patients in high-risk groups to monitor their blood oxygen levels directly and help ensure timely referral to hospital when indicated,” said Dr Black.

“We are now pleased to be the first ambulance service to offer pulse oximeters to patients along with guidance once we have assessed them and determined they don’t need to be taken to hospital but are at increased risk of their condition changing."

The oximeters work by placing a clip on the end of a finger to measure oxygen in the blood and heart rate and, if oxygen levels drop to 94 per cent or 93 per cent, patients are asked to call their GP or NHS 111. The should call 999 if it falls to 92 per cent or less.

If a patient does not suffer any further complications and makes a recovery at home they are asked to return the device after 14 days to their own GP Surgery or to their local COVID Oximetry @home service.