COVID-19 update - 23 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
Today we have announced that across our region we have started postponing non-urgent operations and appointments, and that NEAS are suspending non-urgent patient transport services to hospitals and clinics. You can read the full release here.

We have said that:
  • Non-urgent patient transport services to hospital appointments and clinics will be suspended by the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) from 8am Tuesday 24 March until further notice. The decision allows NEAS to support hospitals to discharge more patients well enough to return home and free-up the maximum possible inpatient and critical care capacity in the region. A limited transport service will continue for patients needing dialysis; chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other cancer treatment at 21 essential clinics; and when required for non-urgent assessment as directed by a clinician. Patients who are concerned about their transport should contact NEAS on 0300 111 0247.
  • NHS trusts are contacting patients with non-urgent planned operations and routine outpatient appointments to let them know their appointment is postponed. Emergency admissions, cancer treatment and other urgent clinical care will remain unaffected and continue to go ahead.
These are not decisions we take lightly and we completely understand that this will be very difficult news to hear for many of our patients, their families and for our staff too. But this is an important step we must take to ensure we free-up beds and staff, so we can care for the most critically ill in these unprecedented times.

Over the weekend you will be aware that the Government announced that patients at high risk of severe illness will receive a letter asking them to isolate for 12 weeks so they can protect themselves. You can read the guidance here. A range of communications have been issued to GP practices. locum GPs, primary care networks, GP federations and CCGs regarding this.

We are aware that many of our retired NHS workers have answered the call to come back to work which is amazing. There’s some more information here for anyone considering a return so please feel free to share.

We have also taken the opportunity to continue to urge people to help us during these unprecedented times by using NHS services sensibly and following the rules set around social distancing.

Thank you to everyone who has continued to work tirelessly over the weekend planning for what lies ahead. We are approaching a critical phase in our battle again Coronavirus with many more difficult decisions to make as we continue to do our best to protect and care for our communities. Be in no doubt - we can all make a difference; whether that’s at work or at home - by doing what we can to limit the spread of this virus.

I will leave you with this very important message from Professor Peter Kelly, please share this across your channels.

Finally, I cannot thank you and your teams enough for all your continued commitment and stoicism at this time.

Professor Peter Kelly, PHE North East Centre Director said: “Those who can work from home should do so. Those who work in essential services and need to go their workplace should rigorously pay attention to social distancing in that workplace. Avoid non-essential use of public transport. We should only go shopping for essential items such as food and medicines and if we do, then we must take great care to keep a safe distance (2 metres) from other people. I know following this guidance is hard. But we must avoid gathering with our wider family and friends where possible and avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces. If we need fresh air and exercise then we must stay close to home and avoid other people.

“Finally, as the Easter break approaches and the weather improves, our natural instinct is to think of the many wonderful assets and beauty spots we have across the North East. I would say in the strongest possible terms we are living in exceptional times and we all need to make very real adjustments and sacrifices to protect ourselves and others. Stay at home, do not travel other than for necessary work or essentials and please follow the guidance here to stay safe: Social distancing to protect vulnerable groups "

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

For the latest figures regarding COVID-19 cases please see here.

A video of Keith Willett explaining COVID-19 was posted on Friday 20 March.

A video was posted on Friday 20 March from CNO Ruth May calling on former nurses and midwives to join our team and help on the front-line using the #YourNHSNeedsYou.

Key workers: The Government has published guidance for schools and local authorities in to the provision of education for key workers, including NHS staff.

Additional publications