COVID-19 update - 31 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
We are continuing to do what we can across the region to release as much management capacity and resources as possible. Many of you will be aware of the letter to CCGs and trusts last week from chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard, you can read it here.

This highlights some key areas across governance, reporting and assurance and HR where we can step down some of our routine activities. Clearly there are some areas of reporting we must maintain such as referral to treatment times (RTT), A&E performance and cancer treatments which will also enable us to check pressures on the system and support each other.

It’s great to see lots in the press and social media about our colleagues and communities pulling together in these difficult times - from the opening of hubs offering help to the most vulnerable in our communities, to children’s rainbow window displays and pictures of teams pulling together and getting prepared. There’s too many to mention, but they all play a part in showing the preparations underway and the support there is for us all at this time.

Our thoughts continue to be with those affected by this, especially those who have lost loved ones.

Thanks again for all that you are doing.

Best wishes, Alan

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) – 31 March 2020
A further 367 people, who tested positive for the Coronavirus (Covid-19) have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in England to 1,651. Patients were aged between 19 and 98 years old and all but 28 patients (aged between 19 and 91 years old) had underlying health conditions. Their families have been informed. Figures for trusts in North East and North Cumbria are below. For further information please contact the NHS England and NHS Improvement media team on or 01138 250958/9. More information can be found here.
Cumbria CCG
There’s a great new section on the Cumbria CCG website which hosts information (protocols, locations, animation for children and soon a video of a hub process) so GP websites can link to it as their area's hub goes live. You can view it here.

Cumbria County Council has launched a new emergency support service for people at high risk of becoming seriously ill, as a result of COVID-19, and who do not have support available from friends, family or neighbours. Those at high risk include people over 70 years old, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions who should be protecting themselves by staying at home. These people will now be able to call a freephone number to request help with getting food, medicines, essential supplies and home deliveries.

In the news
  • Check out coverage from Tyne Tees about incidents of PPE equipment being stolen from ambulances while staff care for patients. In yesterday’s bulletin we shared the press release from NEAS which said that the incidents are now being investigated by the police.
  • Consultant Joel Dunning from South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (who has hung up his scrubs to work as a nurse on ITU) featured on Radio 5 Live breakfast and World at One today (scroll forward 29mins 50secs).
  • Charge nurse Craig Leathard from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust was interviewed by BBC Look North last night and is doing a series of short videos which will be shown on the programme over the course of this week. The videos will cover topics including why it is important to listen to advice, tips to keep resilient and what it is like working on the front line. Northumbria’s consultant in public health, Judith Stonebridge, has been interviewed about how the trust is supporting staff during these difficult times alongside her colleague head of critical care, Dr Rob Whittle, who shared his personal view on what it is like working in critical care and trust preparedness. Catch them tonight on Tyne Tees, Look North and Sky. Here’s a link to a clip of Judith’s interview with Radio 5 Live from twitter.
Staff testing
As mentioned yesterday NHS England and NHS Improvement chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard has written to NHS trust chief executives, CCGs, STPs/ICS, regional directors, chairs yesterday (29 March), as part of plans to increase staff testing. A link to the letter is provided here.

Pausing the NHS complaints process
Due to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic NHS England and NHS Improvement are supporting a system wide “pause” of the NHS complaints process which would allow all health care providers in all sectors to concentrate their efforts on the front-line duties and responsiveness to COVID19 this means that:
  • all providers should ensure that patients and the public are still able to raise concerns or make a complaint, but that the expectation of an investigation and response in the near future is managed.
  • all providers would continue to acknowledge complaints, log them on their respective systems, triage them for any immediate issues of patient safety, practitioner performance or safeguarding and take immediate action where necessary. All complaints would then remain open until further notice, unless an informal resolution could be achieved, or the complainant chooses to withdraw their complaint.
  • in secondary care where PALS offices still operate, they could still provide support by email and telephone and this should be encouraged for patients and the public to engage with the organisation.
  • CCGs should ensure that they continue to have open channels of communication with patients and the public.
  • we would advise the system that consideration should be given to complainants who, at the time of the “pause”, have already waited excessively long for their response (specifically those who have waited six months or more) these should be reviewed to ascertain if and how these can be resolved to the complainant’s satisfaction.
The initial “pause” period is recommended to be for three months with immediate effect. All health care providers can opt to operate as usual regarding the management of complaints if they wish to do so and this “pause” is not being enforced. Please note that as of 26 March, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has stopped accepting new NHS complaints and has stopped work on open cases.

Home isolation and social distancing campaign
Coronavirus fact sheet for children
  • Information for children to help them understand what Coronavirus is, the importance of hand washing and how to help stop the virus spreading is available on the Campaign Resource Centre.
  • This was developed by the Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust. They have also made an animation to go with it. A We Transfer link to the video for download is here.
Additional publications