A rapid evaluation of the use of pulse oximeters in care homes across England to support the care of residents with COVID-19 and long-term health conditions

This study aims to evaluate the use of pulse oximeters, which measure the level of oxygen in the blood. The devices are valuable because many people with COVID-19 or illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma may have dangerously low levels of oxygen in their blood, despite feeling well.

An infographic summarises the study and its key findings

Pulse oximeters are increasingly used in care homes. This is supported in a variety of ways by the NHS, including supplying pulse oximeters, and providing information about how to use them, and how to respond appropriately when the oximeters reveal danger signs.

This is a collaborative project between BRACE and RSET (a second NIHR HSDR programme rapid evaluation team) with input from NHS England and Improvement (NHSE & I) and from a User Involvement Group.

 Key points are available in this slide deck and blog piece. 

 Download the report slide deck (PDF)

A blog written by Dr Manni Sidhu shares the lessons from two independent rapid evaluations of Pulse oximetry in care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Manni Sidhu talks about the Covid Oximetry @Home project


This rapid evaluation aims to take a snapshot of the situation and provide quick, accurate findings so as to share experiences across the care home sector and inform future NHS support to care homes using pulse oximetry. In the study we try to answer the following research questions:

  • In which particular circumstances are pulse oximeters used in care homes?
  • What helps or hinders the use of pulse oximeters in care homes?
  • How can the NHS best support staff and residents of care homes using pulse oximeters to monitor people’s health?
  • What are the pros and cons of using pulse oximeters in care homes?

The evaluation has two main parts. The first is a survey sent to the manager at each of the approximately 15,000 care homes registered with the Care Quality Commission, which is the organisation responsible for regulating care homes in England. The second part of the study involves researchers interviewing care home managers and staff at a sample of six care homes across England, and also some of the NHS staff (eg GPs and community nurses) working with the care homes in supporting residents when they are unwell.

Project team

Co-Principal Investigators: 

Research team:

User Involvement Group:


National Institute for Health Research, Health Services and Delivery Research stream (NIHR HSDR) published report in Journals Library Using pulse oximeters in care homes for residents with COVID-19 and other conditions: a rapid mixed-methods evaluation Manbinder Sidhu, Ian Litchfield, Robin Miller, Naomi J Fulop, Barbara Janta, Jamie-Rae Tanner, Giulia Maistrello, Jenny Bousfield, Cecilia Vindrola-Padros, Jon Sussex 

Key points are available in a slide deck Download the key points in the slide deck 

A journal article in EClinical Medicine, March 2022 looks at The impact of remote home monitoring of people with COVID-19 using pulse oximetry: A national population and observational study

A blog written by Dr Manni Sidhu shares the lessons from two independent rapid evaluations of Pulse oximetry in care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic

Project Duration

January 2021 – August 2021

Return to the main project page