The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) has been investigating piped oxygen gas supplies in hospitals and have produced an early interim bulletin to help trusts deal with oxygen flow issues in their organisations.
The pandemic has placed massive pressure on the healthcare system, particularly when providing patients with enough oxygen to help treat the symptoms of COVID-19.
HSIB's investigation so far indicates that trusts experiencing issues with oxygen demand have plenty of oxygen reserves [liquid oxygen]. However, the issue lies with a combination of the pipework/system used to deliver the oxygen and where patients needing the most oxygen are cared for along the oxygen supply network.
HSIB therefore suggesting estates, pharmacy services and clinicians work closely together to map out the capabilities of their piped systems. They should consider spreading out patients with the highest need for oxygen more evenly, to help inform decisions about where patients may be safely cared for.
The current pandemic has forced hospitals to reconfigure wards, and in so doing this has unbalanced the oxygen supply.
Many hospitals work on a radial system, so the gas is pumped along the pipe network in one direction. When the system is balanced, anticipated levels of oxygen can be piped to everyone around the hospital. But, with increased and uneven demand on the pipe network - due to a group of COVID-19 patients, for example - oxygen supply levels may be reduced to other patient areas.