The Scottish Government has announced plans to pump £500,000 into funding remote monitoring kits to help Covid patients stay safely at home to free up hospital beds.
New measures to support the health and care workforce include 25,000 remote monitoring kits, including additional pulse oximeters, and a dedicated team to support the early identification of patients who would benefit from antivirals treatments and get these started as soon as possible.
Covid admissions are said to have risen at a rate 45% faster than they did last winter.
A large spike in staff absences due to the deadly virus is also significantly impacting NHS service provision.
Data published on January 5 covering the preceding week showed that on average 5482 NHS staff per day, or 38,373 over the week, were recorded absent for reasons related to Covid.
This included having confirmed Covid, precautionary symptomatic isolation, voluntary staff self-isolation, coronavirus-related caring responsibilities, and staff contacted by test and protect tracers to quarantine.
Health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The next few weeks will probably be amongst the most difficult our NHS has ever faced in its 73-year existence. We are facing pressure on a number of fronts.
“Modelling suggests that infections and associated staff absences due to the coronavirus could peak by mid-January.
“Treating more people who previously may have been admitted to hospital at home with antivirals and suitable support is essential to free up capacity in our hospitals.”
In addition to the investment in remote monitoring, the Scottish Government will also expand existing programmes, including Hospital at Home, Outpatient Parenteral Antimicrobial Therapy (OPAT) services for managing infections, and Community Respiratory pathways.
These services allow patients to be treated in their own home without admission to hospital.
As well as Covid patients, the measures will also help those with a range of other conditions and illnesses such as pneumonia, congestive cardiac failure, gastroenteritis, cellulitis, sepsis, dementia and related complications, complex falls, anaemia, influenza exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.
Yousaf added: “We know Discharge without Delay has made a significant impact in some parts of the country and rolling it out to all health boards will make a major difference.
“Local contingency plans are in place to focus on the redeployment of available clinical and support services staff to essential services.
“All of this builds on work already under way as part of our £300m investment in health and care services as part of winter preparations, to help maximise capacity, support the wellbeing of our fantastic health and care staff, support flow through the system and improve outcomes.”