COVID-19 ICS update - 17 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
Welcome to Professor Sir Liam Donaldson
Earlier this week we were delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Sir Liam Donaldson – England’s former chief medical officer – as chair of our ICS. I hope you received our message about this on Monday, and you can read our press release here.

This appointment is a key next step in formalising a new way of working for our region and build on our existing collaborations to make a real difference for our local communities.

As you may know Professor Sir Liam has a long-standing attachment to this region and is passionate about improving the health and wellbeing of our local communities – a key ambition for us all. I am sure you will all join me in giving him a warm welcome to our fabulous region when he joins us in the New Year.

You can read more about the strategic direction of system working and NHS England’s proposals to put integrated care systems on a statutory footing here.

COVID-19 vaccine
It was incredibly moving this week to hear the stories of people giving and receiving the vaccine as it was further rolled out to our communities through some of our GP practices and primary care networks. Lots of great support from our local media and you can see some of the coverage here and here.

The range of vaccine services are starting to slowly build up across our region, with simply amazing efforts by staff in parts of our NHS working quickly to stand up services to vaccinate some of the most vulnerable patients, over 80s and care workers from older people’s residential care services.

It’s important to remember this is a slow and steady approach while we test our processes and get used to handling the Pfizer vaccine which is difficult to store and handle.

The range and extent of services will build as more vaccine becomes available, we still have limited supplies and we want to make sure that we use them in-line with the priority groups set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s most recent guidance.

In the meantime, we hope to hear more soon about how the vaccination of older people in care homes can take place. We also hope to hear more on when further vaccine supplies will be made available so those NHS staff who are most at risk of the consequences of having COVID-19 can be offered their vaccine.

The message to our patients and public remains the same, it’s really important that people wait to be invited – and the NHS will let people know when it is their turn to be invited.

Asymptomatic staff testing
As previously highlighted a huge number of lateral flow (LF) tests have been delivered to our trusts over recent weeks to enable patient facing NHS staff to test themselves twice a week at home. All our trusts have been making every effort to ensure that the roll out of this significant programme of work happens as quickly as possible. This has been a huge effort by all concerned – thank you for your ongoing commitment.

Tier announcements
You will be aware that today the Government announced tier restrictions for areas across England. The North East is remaining in tier three and Cumbria in tier two. You can read a statement from the seven local authorities in the north east here.

Today we have issued this press release to remind the public to stay safe this Christmas and use services sensibly. We are all mindful that the weeks ahead may bring some further pressures for health and care services as some of the rules are relaxed for a short period to enable people to spend time with their loved ones.

Also today our colleagues at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust have made a direct appeal to their own communities as they are extremely concerned that COVID-19 is being brought into hospital and spread due to people ignoring the rules that are in place to keep patients and staff safe. Sadly, staff at the trust’s hospitals have also had to endure unacceptable behaviour when asking people to wear facemasks. You can read their release here.

Thank you
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who will be working over the Christmas and New Year period.

Not only within our workforce, but the many other key workers and those working across our businesses and utilities.

As always, our thoughts are much with those who have lost loved ones. It will be a difficult time for many. Keep going everyone and I hope you get some time to relax over the weekend. The bulletin next week will be published a bit earlier on Wednesday 23 December.

Best wishes,


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.