COVID-19 ICS update - 3 December 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
NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme for the North East and North Cumbria
Exciting developments this week with news that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the first COVID vaccine for use.

Our detailed planning continues which builds on the expertise and strong track record we already have in delivering immunisations, like the annual flu vaccination programme, and to ensure that a COVID-19 vaccination programme does not impact on other vital services.

As you know this work is being co-ordinated and supported by Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust working in collaboration with primary care networks, trusts and a wide range of other partners across our systems.

Things are moving at pace so do bear with us as we try to keep you updated as best as we can.

Now that we have a vaccine that has been confirmed as safe and effective by the MHRA, we can begin to roll it out to those groups who the independent Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation (JCVI) have decided need it most when the supplies are available to us.

We are not at that stage yet and it could be up to a week for the vaccines to be shipped into the country, inspected by Public Health England (PHE) and distributed. Delivering the Pfizer vaccine is complex as it needs to be stored at very cold temperatures and moved carefully, so at first we will only deliver it from “hospital hubs”. It is important that health and care workers protect themselves so that they are there to care for others.

We are preparing and looking forward to offering the vaccine to more groups of people and in more ways, like local vaccination services, but this will be a marathon over the coming months, not a sprint.

We will keep expanding the programme as we get more vaccines. There is no doubt that this is a huge task and we have been recruiting and training more vaccinators and support staff from across the NHS and outside of it to help ensure we can go as fast as supply allows. All of these will be trained, assessed and supervised.

Of course, we need the public to support this and they can also really help the NHS deliver this effectively to those who need it most. Our asks to them over the coming months are:
  • we will contact you when it’s the right time to come forward, so please don’t seek a vaccine before then;
  • please act on your invite and make sure you attend your appointments when you arrange them;
  • and of course, please continue to follow all the social distancing and hand hygiene guidance, which will still save lives.
There will be national communications and advertising materials to support our engagement with the public and work is underway to develop a communication strategy which complements this. In the meantime, some resources from PHE can be accessed here.

This brings me onto flu. We are not taking our foot off the pedal and continue to encourage people to come forward for their vaccination

There are some key reasons for this. You can’t have the flu and coronavirus vaccination at the same time as there needs to be a gap (currently 7 days) between having the flu vaccine and the covid vaccine. This is a really important message for the first groups who will be vaccinated. Getting ahead with the flu programme now will also help to free up our teams so we can focus on delivering the covid vaccine when it is ready to be rolled out to the public.

I know GP practices and pharmacies have been busy with calls from the public about the extension of the flu vaccination programme to 50-64 year olds and will be getting ready to deliver this or in some cases have already starting to vaccinating this group. Keep up the great work.

We are reminding people that there is still time to get their flu jab. We have just published this new film to encourage parents of two to three years old to get their child vaccinated. Durham Council, in partnership with CDDFT and the CCG have also issued a press release asking people with respiratory conditions to come forward for their vaccine, if they haven’t already, given they are at a much higher risk if they catch the virus. Keep helping us to share this really important message.

Supporting our children and young people
As a region we are committed to improving the lives of our children and young people and the events of this year have exposed, even further, some of the inequalities they already face.

Our Child Health and Wellbeing Network has and continues to drive forward its ambition to make a difference to the lives of young people. Our network’s clinical lead, Dr Mike McKean, has shared some of his experiences in a recent blog with NHS Confederation which you can read here.

Our leadership in this area has recently been praised by Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green in an opinion piece he has written for the BMJ. In this he states that ‘building local communities with resilient children should be embedded in all policy and practice. Needs should be identified early and interventions made available. This takes inspirational local leadership, as is being developed in Newark and the north east and Cumbria.’ You can read this in full here.

Mental health
The festive period can be a difficult time for many people and as we come towards the end a very difficult and challenging year we expect this Christmas to be much tougher than normal for some people.

Colleagues at CNTW have launched their winter wellness campaign to raise awareness of the support available for people suffering with mental health problems. The campaign aims to reach those who may be struggling and to offer advice on how to support loved ones who might be in need. We would encourage you to do all you can to help support this, you can read more here and we will be supporting this through our #DoYourBit winter campaign.

‘Do It For Yourself’ campaign
We are supporting our colleagues in the Northern Cancer Alliance by promoting the ‘Do It For Yourself’ campaign. The campaign raises awareness of the signs of lung cancer and encourages people to contact their GP if they’ve been experiencing a cough or ongoing breathlessness for three weeks or more.

As ever it’s a really busy time and things are moving at pace. Thank you 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.