COVID-19 update - 7 August 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. We will do our best to keep you updated with the latest information and key decisions from the Strategic Health Co-ordinating 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
Phase three response to COVID-19
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) chief executive, and chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard have written to NHS organisations to outline the third phase of the response to COVID-19 and our priorities from this point forward.

It continues the focus on restoring and recovering services and preparing for the winter ahead. This includes ensuring all cancer services are back to full operation and that we recover the maximum elective activity possible. Primary care and community services have also been urged to restore activity to usual levels, where clinically appropriate, and there is an ask for all CCGs to continue to increase investment in mental health services.

I know a huge amount of planning is underway to achieve this and we have made great progress so far but clearly this will continue to be a challenge. At the same time, ensuring the health and wellbeing of our staff as we move forward will be vital.

As we know, COVID-19 has further exposed some of the health inequalities that exist in our society. With that in mind, a central priority for us will be to restore these services in a way that inclusively supports those in the greatest need.

The phase three letter also recognises the importance of collaborative working and that there will be full coverage across the country of integrated care systems (ICSs) by April 2021. It also sets some clear next steps for us including the submission of our own development plan by 21 September, the establishment of Partnership Boards and single ICS approaches to commissioning. You can read the letter in full here.

As we mentioned in previous updates, flu vaccinations will be more important than ever this year, as we all seek to protect patients and staff, reduce the number of people who need treatment this winter, and as we continue to re-set services that have been disrupted by the pandemic.

This week we have also received an update on the national flu immunisation programme, which you can read here, and it provides further clarity in some areas. As you know I have already highlighted the huge challenge this expanded programmes means for us all. There is an expectation that we vaccinate 100 per cent of our workforce and a minimum of 75 per cent of the public eligible for a free vaccination.

Advances in testing
Things continue to move at pace and it is great to see advances in testing and a potential vaccine. This week the roll out of two new rapid coronavirus tests have been announced. Both of these tests will be able to detect COVID-19 and other winter viruses in just 90 minutes, which will hugely increase testing capacity ahead of winter. You can read more on that here. The government has also announced an increase in the UK vaccine manufacturing capacity, which will help ensure people in the UK can receive a vaccine as quickly as possible once one become available.

Our thoughts are very much with the communities in the north west this week as they reinstate lockdown measures to help bring the local coronavirus outbreak back under control. These local lockdowns serve as a stark reminder to us all that the virus is still very much among us and of the continued importance of observing rules around social distancing and handwashing.

I don’t underestimate the job ahead of us and indeed what you we have all managed to achieved so far. Working together will continue to be a key strength for us all as we move forward through the coming months. We’ve got a great reputation of doing this across our region and I would like to once again share my gratitude to all of you for everything you have been doing.

Best wishes,


Alan Foster is executive lead for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System

News and updates

The R number in the UK: The latest reproduction number (R) and growth rate of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK can be found here on GOV.UK

Public Health England dashboard: The Public Health England (PHE) dashboard can be found here. Daily reporting includes deaths that have occurred in all settings where there has been a positive COVID-19 test, including hospitals, care homes and the wider community. The report also includes case rates per 100,000 resident population at lower-tier local authority level.