Oxford Hospitals Charity has purchased 120 specialist monitors to help children and young people with cystic fibrosis (CF) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The equipment, funded with the help of NHS Charities Together, has been sent to homes across Oxfordshire and the surrounding counties. 

Children with cystic fibrosis normally need regular appointments in hospital to measure their lung function, and this equipment means they can now have the tests done at home.

Dr Jeremy Hull, the Oxford Children’s Cystic Fibrosis Director, asked the charity to fund the monitors. He explains:

One of the important reasons why children regularly come to our clinics is so we can measure their lung function. A fall in lung function, even if it is quite small, can indicate the presence of infection that needs to be treated; it’s an early warning that something serious is happening. 

‘These are a vulnerable group of children, and like many other services, hospital visits are currently restricted to urgent reviews only – but it is so important that we continue to make sure they are keeping well and feel properly supported.

‘We asked the charity to help at the beginning of the lock down and they said yes very quickly which meant the order for the monitors could go straight in. Just two weeks later the monitors were received and sent out to all the children and young people who would need them, which is a fantastic turnaround.

‘These at home monitors work really well to measure lung function, and are used as part of regular telemedicine reviews from their Oxford Children’s Hospital team or their local healthcare teams one of five other district hospitals in the surrounding counties.

The families we work with are really relieved to have the monitors and they are already giving good results which means our patients and their parents are being reassured very quickly, without having to come in to hospitals. 

‘It is fantastic to be able to remove this anxiety and still get an objective and clear measurement of the lung function. So we are really thrilled the charity could help us – and in such a timely manner too.’

16 year old Joseph Lomax is already using the equipment from his home.

The teenager, from Wootton in Northampton, explains: ‘I’ve not been well for a while and I’m currently on a course of IV antibiotics so I was really pleased when the lung function machine that the charity has funded arrived.

It is already been really useful in monitoring my progress and keeping me, and my nurse informed of my health. It also helps because it reassures us all.

‘Having cystic fibrosis I am considered extremely vulnerable by the government during this Covid-19 pandemic.

‘Normally I attend countless hospital appointments with my specialist CF teams at the John Radcliffe as well as my local hospital in Northampton.

‘They need to make sure my treatment plan is working, check up on my physio technique, and I also meet with the dietician to discuss diet – which is an integral part to CF care. Most importantly they monitor lung function, which is a crucial factor in making decisions surrounding treatment. 

‘My specialist treatment centre is the John Radcliffe, which is supported by Oxford Hospitals Charity.  The charity has funded mini lung function machines for the 120 patients, like me who are under Dr Hull’s care, to use at home.’

These machines measure FEV1, which gives your lung capacity in litres. This data is incredibly important as it gives healthcare professionals the opportunity to see how well a patient’s lungs are functioning.

Lung function tests are routine at CF clinics (every 6 weeks) or as often as necessary, but during the Covid-19 pandemic, people with Cystic Fibrosis cannot go to clinics at the hospital or see their healthcare professionals, unless absolutely necessary.  

So, with these at home lung function machines patients like me, and our parents can stay on top of our health and importantly stay reassured. It really makes a massive difference.’

Douglas Graham, CEO of Oxford Hospitals Charity added: ‘Our charity has always been there for patients and staff in our hospitals, but the need right now is greater than ever, and we are doing our utmost to help wherever we can.  

‘We were delighted to have the support of NHS Charities Together, to be able to react so quickly and provide this support for so many young people with CF, and it is very good to hear how reassuring it is for families to have this equipment with them at home. 

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Oxford Hospitals Charity (registered charity no 1175809) is the official charity supporting Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. www.hospitalcharity.co.uk