COVID-19 update - 6 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
Fantastic news for our region - which you may have spotted on BBC Look North on Friday night. The path lab at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead has got some new kit which means it can increase the number of tests for COVID-19 and share results more quickly. The trust will be ramping up testing over the next few days and will be able to process 10,000 per day when running at full capacity. The lab runs 24/7 and provide support to a number of different hospitals across the region as well as GP surgeries.

Across the region we are reminding people that the NHS is here for them if they need it and not to delay treatment if they are seriously ill. There is some evidence to show that the number of people attending emergency departments is lower than normal, especially for conditions like strokes and heart attacks. Today clinical lead for the ICS, Professor Chris Gray, was interviewed for Tyne Tees evening news alongside consultant paediatrician, Dr Jason Gane, from Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to share these important messages with our communities.

On Friday we sent out some important information regarding PPE and our efforts across the region to co-ordinate and facilitate delivery and supplies. This includes the establishment a new central distribution hub and point of contact, and a plea to businesses and organisations to get in touch if they are able to donate or supply PPE. You can view it here. There was coverage of this on social media over the weekend.

Our main focus at the moment is supporting those organisations who have an immediate need for PPE. Although the hub is based at Riverside in Newburn (Newcastle) this is a resource for the North East and North Cumbria. This is a fast-moving situation, we know that more PPE is expected as the national supply chain kicks-in even more over the next few days and weeks, but we will continue to review what we are doing on a daily basis. We are also working closely with local resilience forums to join-up our efforts. This week we will be in touch with trusts to ask if they can share any surplus PPE supplies they have to support any immediate needs of organisations across the patch. Business and organisations wishing to donate or supply PPE can contact us on and more information can be found here.

As you will be aware final year medical students have graduated early in order to support the NHS at this critical time. For the first time, medical students at Newcastle University graduated virtually and I wanted to share with you this moving film where they said their Hippocratic Oath, principles held sacred by doctors, online so their friends and families were able to watch. I am sure you will join me in welcoming them to health and care family across the region.

Thank to you to the public who followed the advice this weekend to stay home and not to travel to local beaches and other beauty spots.

Once again can I thank everyone who worked over the weekend. It’s going to be another busy week but we will get through this. Our thoughts remain with all of those affected by this, especially those that have lost loved ones.
Best wishes, Alan

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

NHS England/Improvement statement on Coronavirus (Covid-19) on 6 April 2020
A further 403 people, who tested positive for the Coronavirus (Covid-19) have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 4,897.Patients were aged between 35 and 106 years old. 15 of the 403 patients (aged between 52 and 94 years old) had no known underlying health condition. Their families have been informed. The number of deaths of patients with Covid-19 by region are as follows:
East of England 44
London 129
Midlands 75
North East & Yorkshire 67
North West 43
South East 18
South West 27
Additional data, including listings by NHS trust and date of death is available on the NHS England website and can be accessed by following this link.

In the news
Dr Joe Cosgrove - a consultant anaesthetist in critical care at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - did a radio phone-in with Radio 4 over the weekend. He has also been interviewed for BBC Look North, which was aired tonight.

Fab NHS stuff
This is a great resource for picking up and sharing good ideas and practice taking place across health and care with regards to COVID-19.

Information shared by NHS England and NHS Improvement, North East and Yorkshire
High risk patients: A series of public-facing FAQs has been produced which aim to answer as many of questions raised off the back of the national high risk patient letters. Also note that has updated its vulnerable people guidance with additional translations.

JoinZoe and similar apps
There has been a number of queries from regional colleagues about various symptoms tracking apps like JoinZoe or Let’s Beat COVID, that are being introduced across the country to help the COVID-19 effort. Many have asked if they are able to promote these to people and staff locally.

To tackle coronavirus nationally, it is important that we understand people's experiences of COVID-19 across the population. To enable this, a new NHS Coronavirus Status Checker has been launched and people with potential coronavirus symptoms are now being asked to complete this. Information collected by the NHS Coronavirus Status Checker will form part of a core national COVID-19 dataset, optimising modelling speed and accuracy. The information gathered will help the NHS to plan its response to the outbreak, indicating when and where more resources like oxygen, ventilators and staff might be needed. It will provide valuable insight into the development and progression of the virus across the country. Several apps and websites have launched recently that collect similar data. Their creators have agreed to work openly with the NHS and align their products and data with this central effort. We would prefer that regional teams promote the NHS Coronavirus Status Checker service to patients and staff, but do not want to discourage the use of other useful apps.

DBS clearance
The Care Quality Commission has issued interim guidance in response to temporary changes being made by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) to DBS applications and processes. It will be in operation for the period the Coronavirus Act 2020 remains in force, and we will review it on a regular basis.The key points included in the guidance outline that providers are now being offered a fast, free Barred List DBS check for emergency roles being recruited in response to a provider risk assessment. Enhanced DBS check information will still be processed, but will be issued afterwards. Providers are required to take reasonable steps to ensure new staff are recruited in line with new DBS guidance and that new and existing staff continue to be adequately supported and sufficiently supervised so that people are safe.

Discharge leaflets
Discharge guidance was produced on the 19 March which included leaflets for trusts to give to patients. These were not hosted in the usual place Campaign Resource Centre (CRC) but instead on the NHSE site. The leaflets are due to be translated into a number of languages.

When ready, these will be uploaded on to the CRC along with the original English language version. The guidance itself is due to be updated soon but this won’t change the content of the leaflets.

Highest Clinical Risk Patients - update
An updated FAQ aimed specifically for GPs and other clinicians has been developed to clarify the process of identification of patients classified as at highest clinical risk from Covid-19.There is also a separate set of FAQs for patients. These have been updated to explain that not everybody in this group will have received a letter yet.

Learning disabilities – CFS and DNACPR
A letter has gone out re. Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS) and the use of do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (DNACPR) with younger patients, those with a stable long term physical need, learning disability or autism.

Additional publications