Pulse oximetry

How to set up your service to work with NHS Volunteer Responders

The NHS Volunteer Responders programme is ideally placed to support with delivery of pulse oximeters to high-risk coronavirus (COVID-19) positive patients to enable them to monitor their blood oxygen levels. The scheme is extremely simple to use.

Referrals into the programme go live as soon as the referral is made, with local volunteers alerted through the app to ask them to pick up the equipment and drop it at the patient’s house.

To arrange for our volunteers to help with the delivery of pulse oximeters you will need to follow the steps below:

  1. Identify a central location in the local area where the oximeters can be collected from. Ideally this should be somewhere that volunteers will be able to access easily and safely, such as a GP practice, community pharmacy, fire station or police station. The staff there should be informed of the process for handing over oximeters to volunteers.
  2. Put the oximeters into packs together with any other information or equipment that you want to provide to the patient. Some areas are providing a Freepost addressed envelope in these packs so that patients or their carer/friend/family member can post back their oximeter once they no longer need it (and are no longer coronavirus positive).
  3. Ensure each pack includes the phone number of the virtual ward and instructions to the volunteer to call that number if they encounter any issues.
  4. Identify a single NHS email address that the virtual ward team will use to request volunteers. Using the same email address each time will give you access to a dashboard through the GoodSAM platform so that you can monitor and manage all your requests.
  5. The first time you make a request using this email address, you will be sent a verification email by GoodSAM. Please ensure that you check your emails for this verification, noting to check the junk folder if it has not arrived within 10 minutes.
  6. Please email referrersupport@royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk before you make your first referral to let us know that you are planning to use the NHS Volunteer Responders programme to deliver oximeters in your area. We will send an alert to all volunteers in that locality ensuring they know the importance of these tasks and encouraging them to prioritise them.



Page last reviewed: 05 January 2021

Making referrals

To make a referral:

  1. When a patient has been identified as needing an oximeter, complete a new referral on goodsamapp.org/nhsreferral
  2. Insert the organisation name and address where the oximeter needs to be collected from and include the telephone number of the virtual ward. Once the volunteer accepts the alert, they will call you to clarify your requirements. Please explain that they should collect the pulse oximeter from the address on the alert and provide them with the patient’s address for delivery.
  3. From the drop-down options available, select:
    1. ‘NHS Transport’ from the list of task options
    2. ‘High priority’ from the priority options
    3. ‘One-off task’ from the frequency list

This is really important to ensure that the task is prioritised for volunteers.

  1. Once you have completed all the details required in the referral form, click submit and the GoodSAM app will immediately locate the nearest volunteer who is ‘on duty’. That volunteer can either accept the task or decline it. Ithe task is declined, it will pass to the next available volunteer and so on until someone accepts it. If the task is not picked up within 1.5 hours, an automatic push notification will go out to all volunteers in the area, stating that there is an urgent critical task that requires volunteer assistance and asking volunteers to put themselves on duty.
  2. We ask that you check your GoodSAM dashboard after 4 hours to ensure the task has been picked up. If the task remains unmatched, you can cancel the referral and identify a staff member to deliver the oximeter. (We are confident that this will not be needed in the majority of instances but ask that you have a backstop just in case).

Please note that tasks are currently ‘live’ for volunteers between the hours of 9am and 6pm. We would therefore recommend completing referrals early in the day where possible to ensure a match is provided. If a referral is made late in the day, it may not be picked up until the following morning. (We are in the process of extending the operational hours to 7.30pm)


Page last reviewed: 30 November 2020

What happens when the volunteer accepts the task?

  1. Once the volunteer has accepted the task, they will call the number you have provided on the referral form.
  2. They will obtain clarification from you regarding any additional information. Confirm that they must go to the location within the alert (address you provided within the referral form) to collect the pulse oximeter and provide them with the patient’s address for delivery. 
  3. When they arrive at the location specified on the referral form, they will show their ID to prove they’re on an active task and will be handed the ‘pack’ containing oximeter and any other kit you have agreed locally.
  4. The volunteer then delivers the oximeter pack and either posts it through the letterbox if it will fit or leaves it on the doorstep, knocks and steps back at least 2 metres so they can check that someone retrieves it from the doorstep before leaving. 
  5. If they encounter any difficulties, they will call the number of the virtual ward.
  6. We also have a central Support Team and all volunteers have the contact details of the Support Team should they encounter any difficulties.


Page last reviewed: 13 November 2020

Where can I find more information on the NHS Volunteer Responders programme?

You may also wish to refer your patient/s for other forms of support through NHS Volunteer Responders, including help with collecting and delivering shopping, medication and other essential supplies for patients or a Check In and Chat call to provide a listening ear.


Find out more about making referrals to the NHS Volunteer Responder programme


For more information about the NHS Volunteer Responder programme, see our FAQS



Page last reviewed: 13 November 2020