COVID-19 update - 20 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
Across the region we are now gearing up to implement plans to create extra capacity across the health and care system. This will enable us to respond to the anticipated increase in patients requiring hospital admission and respiratory support.

This includes postponing non-urgent planned operations and outpatient appointments. Emergency admissions, cancer treatment and other urgent clinical care will remain unaffected.

We completely understand that this will be very difficult news to hear for many of our patients, their families and our staff. It’s not a decision any of us take lightly. But this is an important step we need to take to ensure we can care for the most critically ill.

I would like to thank my colleagues working in the ambulance service for their continued hard work. They are experiencing unprecedented call volumes through NHS 111 and it is great to see them putting their robust and well tested plans into action to help cope with the demand on their services.

They have also moved some staff out of HQ to accommodate social distancing of emergency operation centre staff who manage 999, 111 and clinical support services. As well as redeploying staff working in non-critical areas to support moving vehicles between stations; the process for distributing controlled drugs; moving personal protective equipment (PPE) to get to frontline staff; cleaning vehicles and helping crews turn around faster at hospitals.

We’ve started to communicate some of these important messages to the public and will continue to do so. If you didn’t catch Tyne Tees news last night with Professor Chris Gray you can watch it here. A reminder you can access our animation here.

Equally there are important messages for the public about using primary care services. We will be linking with regional media to share updates on how primary care will be provided in different ways, providing materials to be used on practice websites as well as gathering feedback from CCGs and primary care colleagues about any key messages which should be prioritised.

Pharmacy teams are a critical part of the NHS and in the past weeks they have seen demand for over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, other products, advice and reassurance soar. To help pharmacies to cope under the increasing pressure, we will be working with Local Pharmaceutical Committees and Medicines Optimisation colleagues to look at how we can provide further support and share key messages with the public.

Further guidance has come out about schooling arrangements which provides some assurances for our teams but I know organisations are continuing to look at what childcare arrangements can be made to enable front line staff to be at work.

There are lots of other updates below. Keep up the great work everyone. We can do this. I hope you can get some downtime over the weekend.

Alan Foster, executive lead for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System
Think before you open the link
There is clearly a significant and increasing dependency on digital systems and services to assist with the challenges being experienced as a consequence of COVID-19. Whilst our ICT and digital support teams are delivering a wide range of innovative solutions at an unprecedented pace, we are now aware of a growing threat of Cyber related attacks, therefore, we all need to be extra vigilant, especially in relation of receiving emails or visiting websites where Coronavirus and/or COVID-19 are the subject of the information. Please think before following the link.

NHS employers
New pages of information about protecting and preserving the health, safety and well-being of staff can found on new section NHS employers website. It will be regularly updated, so please keep an eye on it going forward.

National guidance
Please see below a summary of the health-related provisions in the Coronavirus Bill that passed yesterday:
  • Emergency registration of health professionals – on notification from the Secretary of State of an emergency, Registrars of the NMC and HCPC will be able to temporarily register fit, proper and suitably experienced persons with regard to an emergency, as regulated healthcare professionals.
  • Temporary registration of social workers - introduces emergency registration powers for the Registrar of Social Work England (SWE) to temporarily register fit, proper and suitably experienced persons with regard to an emergency, as social workers.
  • Emergency volunteers - introduces a new form of unpaid statutory leave, and powers to establish a compensation scheme to compensate for some loss of earnings and expenses incurred by volunteers.
  • Health service indemnification - powers to provide indemnity coverage for clinical negligence of health care workers and others carrying out NHS and Health and Social Care (HSC) activities connected to care, treatment or diagnostic services provided under the arrangements for responding to the covid-19 pandemic.
  • NHS and local authority care and support - currently, patients with social care needs go through a number of stages before they are discharged from hospital. For some patients, one of these stages is an NHS Continuing Healthcare Assessment a process that can take a number of weeks. The Bill will allow the procedure for discharge from an acute hospital setting for those with a social care need to be simplified.
  • Registration of deaths and still-births - simplify death certificate process and provide more flexibility in an emergency situation by enabling a doctor who may not have seen the deceased to certify the cause of death without the death being referred to the coroner. Bill will allow a family member or person who knew deceased to register without attending the register office and will also extend the list of those people who can give the relevant information to the registrar to register the death to funeral directors.
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