COVID-19 ICS update - 23 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
Recent news
A lot has happened since I wrote to you last week – with changes to the Christmas rules on spending time with loved ones, and a focus on the new strain of coronavirus and areas in the south moving into tier four.

Whilst the new strain is not yet known to be prevalent in our region we know that it is likely to affect us, in common with other parts of the country.

It’s not the news any of us wanted to hear but we are all acutely aware of the risks this virus still poses for us all and how things can change very quickly.

On Monday, the directors of public health from across the seven local authorities in the north east issued this statement in response to the news of the new variant strain, reminding everyone to be vigilant and to remember hands, face and space.

As you know, this remains our best defence and is particularly important for all staff, in all care settings, to help reduce nosocomial infections.

We are working and planning on the assumption that the weeks ahead will continue to be a busy time for health and care services across our region. Working with our public health and other colleagues across the region we will continue to monitor the prevalence of the virus and its impact on our capacity very closely; as well as plans for a potential third wave including mutual aid/escalation where it is needed.

I know teams are working incredibly hard to ensure we are well prepared and we will continue to work together to get through this, as we always do.

Please pass on my personal thanks to your colleagues and teams for all they have, and continue to do, to keep our communities safe.

We also have assurances that all lateral flow tests will continue to be distributed to hospital staff and deployed without delay - thanks to everyone for their efforts to make sure this happens.

Our stocks of PPE and consumables also continue to be managed effectively, particularly in the context of EU exit and the recent border disruption.

The COVID vaccination programme continues with the expectation that it will still be effective against variants and the latest update on this is below.

COVID-19 vaccine
This week sees the roll out of a region-wide campaign to attract more than 1,100 paid staff and up to 700 volunteers to support the vaccination programme across the North East and North Cumbria.

The recruitment process is managed by Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NUTH) who are co-ordinating the vaccine programme.

The programme has established as a landing page for the campaign and this directs visitors to the dedicated pages on the NUTH recruitment website. Please do all you can to support this campaign and share through your own social channels.

The numbers of staff and volunteers needed across the patch will grow as further support will be needed as the programme expands beyond the large vaccination centres. Staff sharing agreements with trusts are being put in place to allow streamlined processes for deploying staff.

Meanwhile, primary care and hospital hubs continue to vaccinate people over 80, care home workers and NHS staff most at risk of the consequences of contracting COVID.

Every effort is being made to make the best possible use of the limited vaccine supplies we have and make sure that the entire region receives a share of the supplies we have available.

As we are now able to order smaller amounts of the Pfizer vaccine, we will start to roll it out more widely across the target groups by extending into care homes very soon and of course we all eagerly await news if other vaccines will be approved by the MHRA.

In the meantime, the message to staff, 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 called in for their vaccination.

Keep going and thank you
As hard as things may feel at the moment, do try and remember what we have achieved in the last year and the strength in working and supporting each other.

There’s many stories and examples - big and small - that this short message does not allow me to communicate. But you know what they are. So let’s hold on to these as we move into 2021.

Finally, I cannot reflect on 2020 without acknowledging those that have lost loved ones this year and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.

Please do have a safe Christmas and thank you for all you and your teams have done this year.

With best wishes and hopes for 2021.


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.