COVID-19 update - 1 April 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 the Cumbria Strategic Co-ordination Group announced that work will now begin to transform local leisure centres to create an extra 500 NHS beds for the county as part of COVID-19 planning for increases in numbers of patients. Agencies in Cumbria, working as part of the Local Resilience Forum, have been working incredibly hard to get this organised. The facilities will be established at Whitehaven Sports Centre, The Sands Centre in Carlisle, Penrith Leisure Centre, Kendal Leisure Centre and Furness Academy. Equipment is being installed throughout this week with the help of Ministry of Defence troops who are supporting preparations in Cumbria. This is a great team effort by everyone involved. You can read the full release here.

This week sees the establishment of ‘hot clinics’ to treat coronavirus patients and help existing GP practices during the daytime and at weekends across our region. Patients will be referred to these clinics by their own practice, after remote triage and if a face to face appointment is considered clinically essential.  For example, on Teesside eight of the area’s GP ‘out-of-hours’ clinics will move into the hubs and will support practices in managing patients who are COVID-19 symptomatic, and (those) who have a primary care need that cannot be managed through remote consultation, and require to see a GP or nurse face to face. NHS South Tyneside CCG has commissioned a ‘hot clinic’ service locally, to provide care for patients who are referred by their GP practice for treatment but who do not require hospital treatment. This is another example of fantastic team work in our region and will help to ensure that patients have access to GP services as well as supporting our practices during the pandemic. The story was covered on Tyne Tees tonight.

We are expecting further guidance soon on testing and PPE. In the meantime, I would like to say thank you to everyone involved in our efforts to ensure vital equipment reaches our frontlines and rollout out testing for COVID-19. It has been challenging but we will get there. Keep up the great work.

As you will see below every household will receive a letter from the Prime Minister reminding them of the important steps they can take to stay safe, protect the NHS and save lives. 

A huge thank you to our colleagues at Health Education England North East and the Lead Employer Trust. Their response to COVID-19 is being co-ordinated by Professor Namita Kumar and there’s some really helpful information which pulls together the latest position and guidance for education and training here. Their latest bulletin can be found here.

As always, our thoughts are with those affected – especially people who have lost loved ones. Below we share the national figures for numbers of deaths which are released every day from NHS England/NHS Improvement. As we all know, behind each number is someone’s loved one and I know this is something we all hold close in our thoughts every day.

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) – 1 April 2020
A further 486 people, who tested positive for the Coronavirus (Covid-19) have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 2,137.

Patients were aged between 13 and 99 years old. 20 of the 486 patients (aged between 13 and 93 years old) had no known underlying health condition. 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.
  • CO. DURHAM & DARLINGTON NHS FOUNDATION TRUST: 4 (1 x 20/3; 1 x 22/3; 1 x 23/3; 1 x 26/3)
  • NORTH CUMBRIA INTEGRATED CARE NHS FOUNDATION TRUST: 5  (2 x 30/3; 1 x 25/3; 2 x 31/3)
Check and chat service for people with learning disabilities
People First in Cumbria are running a new check and chat service for people with learning disabilities aimed at supporting people to stay safe and well during the current situation. It’s a Cumbria and North East service so available across the whole region. So far, they have made more than 130 contacts with individuals and where necessary signposted on to help and support. Please feel free to share among your own networks.

NHS 111 online support via text message for people with Covid-19 symptoms 
People self-isolating with suspected coronavirus symptoms will get regular check-ins from a new NHS 111 online messaging service launched over the weekend. Once individuals have been through the online assessment, daily texts will be sent to those who have registered their Covid-19 symptoms and left contact details. The text messages are sent from NHS Covid-19.  takes you to the NHS 111 Online assessment pages, should you want to signpost people to it and the new service.
National door drops
This week, the Prime Minister will write to every UK household to urge them to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. The letter and accompanying leaflet will outline the guidance everyone should follow, along with measures the government has put in place to fight coronavirus and to support businesses and workers.
NHS staff visas
It was announced yesterday that doctors, nurses and paramedics will automatically have their visas extended, free of charge, for one year. The extension will apply to around 2,800 frontline NHS staff whose visa is due to expire before 1 October. The extension will also apply to their family members.

New Every Mind Matters COVID-19 assets
Every Mind Matters has created new COVID 19 specific assets to help local authorities and the NHS support the public’s Mental Health whilst staying at home. These include long and short videos featuring Dr Hilary Jones and animated social assets which are now available to download on the Campaign Resource Centre.
GOV.UK WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Service
A new GOV.UK WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Service has now been launched. The purpose of this product is to combat the spread of misinformation propagated through WhatsApp on an official Government channel. To use the service, members of the public simply add +44 7860 064422 to their contacts and send a WhatsApp message saying “Hi”. Please promote this service through your channels.
Mental health materials
Further to the guidance published yesterday on mental health and wellbeing advice to the public, an easy read guide to looking after your feelings and your body are now available.
Friends and Family test
A message has gone out to providers, commissioners and other regional stakeholders that due to pressures from COVID-19, there has been a change to the requirement for the revised version of the Friends and Family Test (FFT) that was supposed to go live across all services tomorrow.  It has been communicated that they don’t have to do activities that are a burden or place their staff at greater risk or conduct any monthly data submissions for either patient FFT or staff FFT until further notice.
Funeral procedures
New guidance being published by PHE on the care of the deceased with suspected/confirmed coronavirus. There is a PHE press notice to accompany this guidance.
Additional publications