An army of volunteer bikers are delivering a life-saving gadget to COVID-19 patients across the capital who are at risk of rapid deterioration due to the disease.

The Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead is the hub for a 200-strong team of motorcyclists, selected from the Bike Shed Community Response volunteers, who are calling at the homes of vulnerable COVID-19 patients to drop off the device, which crucially measures the patient’s oxygen saturation levels.

The pulse oximeter loaning service is aimed at people in the community who are confirmed, or suspected, of having COVID-19 and who are considered to be at high risk of ‘silent hypoxia’. This means they urgently need to monitor their oxygen levels before they fall dangerously low.

The Urgent Oximeter Response service is the brainchild of GP Dr Sharon Raymond who has set up the COVID Crisis Rescue charity, working alongside The Bike Shed Motorcycle Club and Team Rubicon UK.

She said: “We know that some patients with COVID-19 can develop ‘silent hypoxia’ where pneumonia can result in a steep fall in the body’s oxygen levels without the patient even realising. Unfortunately by the time patients have noticeable trouble breathing and present at hospital their condition may have deteriorated dramatically. This could really help us get people the help they desperately need.”

Clinicians in North Central London can call a 24-hour helpline and request a pulse oximeter to be delivered to their patient’s home.

Dr Raymond added: “The bikers have volunteered to deliver the oximeters to patients across London 24/7. They aim to deliver the device within an hour-and-a-half from the request being made. Patients should then be called by a clinician in the community within two hours to reassess them with the benefit of a saturation and pulse reading.”

Dr Tara Sood, an emergency department consultant at the Royal Free Hospital, who has been working with Dr Raymond, said: “This is a way which will help GP’s to swiftly recognise people who are very unwell. By identifying patients who have silent hypoxia we can get people into hospital as quickly as we can and treat them with oxygen and other therapies which helps patients with their fight against the virus. This is a brilliant example of how we can work with the community and integrate our services better. As soon as I heard about this service I wanted us to get involved.”

Dr Sharon Raymond says her hope is to take the service, which is funded purely through charitable donations, nationwide and is asking for support through the CCR’s JustGiving page here.

She said: “Using the biking community to deliver this kit to patients most at risk could be instrumental in saving lives. I hope people will recognise the importance of it and get behind the service.”

Dutch van Someren, founder of The Bike Shed Motorcycle Club, said: “The Bike Shed and motorcycle community has always been strong, connected and socially responsible. The new Urgent Oximeter Response service could save lives, so it’s a privilege being able to work with Covid Crisis Rescue, Team Rubicon UK and the Royal Free Hospital on this critical initiative.”

(PIC: L-R Bike Shed motorcylist and Dr Tara Sood in the Emergency Department at the Royal Free Hospital with the oximeters)