COVID-19 ICS update - 19 November 2020

This bulletin provides important information for people working in health and care across the North East and North Cumbria regarding guidance and actions being co-ordinated across our region to care for patients, staff and our communities in the light of COVID-19. We will do our best to keep you updated with the latest information and key decisions from the Health Co-ordinating Group. This group is led by Alan Foster, executive lead for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System. If you have any questions or would like us to send vital information to partners through this bulletin, please contact us here.
Message from Alan Foster
Alan Foster
This week leaders of NHS organisations and the seven local authorities in the north east issued a joint statement to the public to ask for their continued support as we approach the last 14 days of the national lockdown. You can read it here

Sadly, cases continues to rise in the community and we are also seeing the knock-on effect of this on our services and our workforce. So it is more important than ever that people do their bit and keep following the rules.

COVID-19 vaccine

You will all be aware of the exciting news around the development of vaccines and the plans to offer immunisations in the near future.

Lots of preparations are now underway so that we can be ready to roll-out a vaccine for COVID-19, once it is approved for use. As you know this is being supported by Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who have a system wide co-ordination role working in collaboration with primary care networks and a wide range of other partners across the ICS.

The NHS locally, regionally and nationally are leading the work, but with significant support from local authorities, the military, police services and many more. While there is a lot of media coverage about the vaccine and how it will be delivered, it is important to remember we are still at a very early stage and this work is to ensure that we are ready as soon the vaccine is available.

The first part of the vaccine programme will focus on those that are most at risk, and is likely to include those who are in residential care or the very frail and elderly living at home, those who are clinically vulnerable, and those that work with them.

The first part of the process is expected to be led by GPs, who already carry out the national annual flu vaccine delivery for those in the at risk group. This is likely to be a complex operation with GPs working with their neighbouring practices in primary care networks (PCNs) – groups of practices in local areas, who know these priority patient groups very well and are used to working together and with local pharmacy teams on vaccination programmes. It will also involve the vaccination of frontline NHS and social care staff. Once completed, the programme will move onto vaccination for the rest of our communities in line with the national plans.

This work will be complex because of the way the vaccine might have to be stored and delivered, so early planning is crucial. It is likely that the plans will continue to evolve as we know more about the vaccine and the timescales.

Extensive discussions about the vaccination programme took place at an extraordinary strategic flu board meeting this week, chaired by Dr Neil O’Brien, and there was a firm commitment from everyone to work together as a system to ensure a successful roll out.

One message was clear, we must not take our foot off the pedal when it comes to flu vaccinations. It’s vital we continue to push forward the programme, especially for our front line staff in health and care as well as those in the older age and clinical at risk groups. Doing this now means we will be in a much stronger position for when we are able to roll out a vaccine for COVID-19.

Keep up the great work everyone.

Asymptomatic staff testing

A significant amount of activity has taken place over the last two weeks in relation to rolling out lateral flow (LF) testing for NHS patient facing staff following receipt of the letter from NHS England’s medical director Professor Stephen Powis, national director of emergency and elective care, Pauline Philip and chief nurse Ruth May.

Last week, 34 trusts in England started receiving the tests and this included Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust. The tests are now being rolled out to all trusts in our area and I know organisations are very busy sorting the logistics needed to manage receipt of tests which will enable some groups of staff to test themselves (twice a week before starting a shift). Any member of staff that has a positive LF test result is required to have a follow up PCR test to confirm or otherwise the initial result.

Clinical and workforce leads are being identified by each of our organisations locally to ensure that critical updates about this testing reach key colleagues quickly given the pace at which roll-out is required and the sheer volume of information that is forthcoming. A range of guidance documents have been developed and every opportunity is being taken nationally to share best practice from trusts who have already started doing this.

Huge effort from everyone – thank you. It was also great to see these efforts being acknowledged in a thank you letter from the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock.

Looking after our staff

It’s self-care week. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you of the support available to staff working across the system.

The past year has been without doubt our most challenging ever and for our teams across health and care, it’s been unrelenting. So just to remind you that Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) continues to offer psychological wellbeing support for the whole system - including health and care, education, police, fire and prison service staff.

A confidential helpline provides anonymous access to a psychological therapist. It is completely confidential and allows health and care staff to talk informally in a safe and supportive environment. The helpline is available Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm, excluding bank holidays on 0191 223 2030. You can read more about the service here

The trust is also running - on the 9 December - a half day psychological wellness on-line training programme for managers and leaders to help support their staff and teams on during this time. More details on this are below. Please do share this information within your own organisations.

Of course, the psychological impact of the pandemic is having an impact within our communities. It’s great to see the launch of CNTW’s campaign ‘there’s light at the end of the tunnel’ which aims to raise awareness of the support available to people at this difficult time - please do help share this message. For more information visit their website

Thank you, as always, for all that you are doing.

Best wishes, Alan

Alan Foster is the executive lead for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System

Other news and updates

The R number in the UK: The latest reproduction number (R) and growth rate of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK can be found here on GOV.UK.

Public Health England dashboard: The Public Health England (PHE) dashboard can be found here. Daily reporting includes deaths that have occurred in all settings where there has been a positive COVID-19 test, including hospitals, care homes and the wider community. The report also includes case rates per 100,000 resident population at lower-tier local authority level.

National flu and COVID-19 surveillance reports: A link to the weekly national flu and COVID-19 report, monitoring COVID-19 activity, seasonal flu and other seasonal respiratory illnesses can be found here.

HEENE update: Please see here for an update from our colleagues in Health Education England North East, which pulls together the latest position and guidance for education and training.

Psychological Wellness Online Training Programme
9th December – 9.30-1.30pm
Please login at 9.15 for a 9.30am prompt start
CNTW is running a half day training programme for managers and leaders to help support their staff and teams. It will be run via Microsoft Teams and will be facilitated by at least two qualified psychologists and/or psychological therapists. The programme is co-produced, transdiagnostic, trauma sensitive and informed. This training is not intended to skill staff up on their counselling skills. Key objectives:
  • Promote understanding of the influences on wellbeing at work, in consideration of COVID-19 and beyond.
  • Enable managers and leaders to look after their own and others’ wellbeing at work.
  • Promote positive approaches for supportive workplaces and teams.
Please note that the workshop will only cover key components of psychological first aid. For more information please email: