COVID-19 update - 27 March 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. This is a fast-moving and evolving situation. We will do our best to keep you updated daily with the latest information and key decisions from the Strategic Health Command 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
Last night the whole nation came together to show their support for those working in health and care by clapping and cheering from their windows, gardens and balconies. There were some fantastic images of our much-loved iconic landmarks lit-up in blue. It moved us all and lifted our spirits after what has been an extremely busy few weeks. I’m sure like me you felt a great sense of pride to be part of the NHS and social care family in this region.

As you know supporting our teams will be crucial over the coming weeks. We will need extra staff as the number of cases of COVID-19 increase. So, I am delighted to say that we now have about 1,000 former nurses, doctors, and allied health professionals who have signed up to say they are willing to return to work. This is fantastic - thank you. We are now working through some of the logistics around this and what needs to be in place to make this happen.

We are working closely with all four local resilience forums (LRFs) and this includes supporting local authorities in establishing shielding hubs and looking at what mortuary arrangements need to be put in place. Shielding hubs will provide an essential support network for vulnerable people supplying essential food, medicines and additional care for people living alone or those that are self-isolating. This is crucial planning work and I want to say a huge thank you to everyone involved.

I hope you managed to catch Professor Christopher Gray (medical director for Cumbria and the North East) and Dr Mathew Beattie (medical director NEAS) on Look North and Tyne Tees news yesterday and Chris was also on BBC Radio Newcastle this morning. It’s important we continue to do what we can to communicate directly with the public about how they can support us and what we are doing to make sure the NHS and social care are there for them when they need it.

Health Education England North East has produced some really helpful information in their latest bulletin. Their response is being co-ordinated by Professor Namita Kumar and all information can found here.

Thank you to everyone who will be working over the weekend to continue to plan for what lies ahead – do try and get some rest if you can. And thank you to those on the front line who continue to provide the very best care for our communities.

Alan Foster, executive lead for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System
Guidance and other news

NHS England/Improvement statement on Coronavirus (Covid-19) – 27 March
A further 168 people, who tested positive for the Coronavirus (Covid-19) have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in England to 689. Patients were aged between 29 and 98 years old and all but four patients (aged between 82 and 91 years old) had underlying health conditions. Their families have been informed. We have only listed information for those trusts in our region.
More information can be found here.

North Cumbria CCG has released some important information for the public about changes in the way people can access primary care as part of its plans to prepare for Coronavirus and to reduce the risk of infection which includes consulting with people as much as possible by phone and digital links. You can read the full release here.

Staff wellbeing: NHS England and NHS Improvement together with NHS Employers are working to ensure that all staff are supported during this difficult period. This includes frontline staff as well as those in support roles. A number of free apps for all staff can be found here. In the coming days, a comprehensive health and wellbeing support programme for colleagues will be shared.

Medicine prescriptions: Queries about medicine prescriptions issues related to GPs over-prescribing have been raised. A letter was issued by Keith Ridge on community pharmacy last week including the position below which can be shared more widely as appropriate. The DHSC is working closely with industry, the NHS and others in the supply chain to ensure patients can access the medicines they need, and precautions are in place to reduce the likelihood of future shortages. It is essential that GPs do not issue prescriptions for a longer duration, pharmacies do not order larger quantities, and patients and the public do not seek to stockpile medicines as this behaviour could put the supply chain at risk. DHSC is monitoring the impact of coronavirus on UK medicines supply. Information on this activity can be found here.

Visitor guidance: A national template on visitor guidance has been produced. The copy can be adjusted to meet local circumstances.

PPE update: This week significant volumes of PPE have been delivered for use by frontline healthcare workers. On Tuesday 24 March 2020 24.6 million gloves, 7.5 million facemasks and 1.9 million eye protectors among other protective equipment were delivered. Wednesday 25 March saw a further 7.6 million facemasks delivered to 236 NHS organisations alongside other key protective equipment. These issues remain under constant review and a 24/7 helpline for healthcare providers to contact should they have concerns about their PPE stock levels has been set up. The NHS Supply Chain and NHS England is successfully identifying additional products and is bulk ordering them at pace. In addition, NHS Supply Chain and PHE continue to explore UK based manufacturing options to provide further security of supply. All advice to clinical staff, including safe systems of working and the of use PPE is available here

Stolen NHS lanyards: It’s hard to believe but it has been reported that some NHS staff have had their lanyards stolen – please keep them safe.

Offers of help for NHS staff: NHS Volunteer Responders has been assembled to support the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please direct prospective volunteers to here and help to support the 1.5m people in England who are most at risk.

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