A simple wristband for patients with breathing problems that tells health professionals how much oxygen a patient needs has been trialed by Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT).

The wristbands correspond with those being used in hospitals, enabling ambulance and accident and emergency staff to initiate the appropriate level of oxygen for the patient. It also reduces the risk of giving too much oxygen in an emergency situation.

The oxygen wristbands pilot is a quality improvement project at KCHFT, where the trust is looking at what it does and how it can do things better. There are more than 120 projects under way.

KCHFT’s east Kent Professional Lead Sheilagh McCrossan said: “The results so far are very promising and do seem to indicate that the project has reduced admissions to hospital with type two respiratory failure, and is reducing the length of stay for patients being admitted with a flare up of their COPD.”

Coloured wristband indicate target oxygen saturations for patients

Until now respiratory patients in east Kent were issued with an alert card, which identifies and informs ambulance crews and hospital teams that they are at risk of retaining carbon dioxide.

However, when respiratory patients are having a frightening flare up, they become increasingly breathless. This can lead to panic and then understandably the small alerts card often gets lost or forgotten and is not shown to healthcare professionals involved in their care.

It was while Sheilagh was working with Kent Surrey Sussex Oxygen Network that the idea for oxygen wristbands for community respiratory patients was born. The network was beginning to use saturation wristbands in hospitals, something first piloted in the north of England. This initial pilot had shown positive outcomes and it was then Sheilagh questioned whether this work was transferrable to the community.

The pilot began in November 2018. Following a comprehensive assessment, patients are issued with a coloured wristband indicating target oxygen saturations appropriate for them when they are unwell.