Staff briefing roundup

Here’s a summary of what was covered in today’s staff briefing…

Thank you to everyone who participated in the staff briefing today. We had almost 100 people join the call.

Each week, Andrew offers a brief explanation of how the CCG is responding to COVID-19. Each area – primary care, system co-ordination and the Incident Management team – has a specific function that helps us all implement what NHS England and the Government are asking. By working together in this way, we can continue to provide the best care possible for all west Essex residents.

The wider picture

The number of COVID-19 related hospital deaths is reducing. Pressure on Princess Alexandra Hospital is also reducing slightly as it is across the system. However, the system is still under pressure. How much under pressure depends on when the Government decides to relax restrictions on the lockdown and how.

In the East of England we are unlikely to see a sharp peak and decline in cases over the coming two or three weeks. The indications are we will still have COVID-19 as an issue through to the end of July or even beyond. That excludes a second or third outbreak as a result of any relaxation of the lockdown.

Recovery and business as usual

Everyone has done really well adapting to the new way of working and reacting to the pandemic, but we now need to readjust again into another way of working. We need to look at how we support primary care and care homes much more over the coming months as everyone is expecting these areas to be under much more focus and pressure.

What is meant by recovery from the COVID-19 period is not yet well defined. Andrew believes it means adjusting to business as usual and also what recovery could look like from September onwards. Again, that depends on whether we experience a second or third wave of outbreaks in the meantime.

We know demand for regular health services has fallen through the floor. Cancer two week wait pathways are not over-subscribed and the number of calls to the ambulance service for non-COVID related issues is down. We believe this could be storing up many problems for the future. We need to find a new business as usual while keeping an eye on what the Government is saying about COVID-19.

Hot hubs

Josephine announced that all three primary care hubs (hot hubs) are now live across west Essex. These are centres where patients can be seen face-to-face by GPs if absolutely necessary. Patients will be remotely triaged twice before they are given an appointment. Only patients with an appointment can attend the hubs, it is not a walk in centre.

Rob explained that general practice has been fairly quiet for issues that are non-COVID related. This could change if and when social distancing rules are relaxed and when younger people are released from lockdown. However, one thing this situation has shown is the way general practice is delivered could be very different in the future.

Person Protective Equipment (PPE)

Ian said a big thank you to Jackie Hall, Debra Smith, Paul Stephenson and Gay Alford for their time and support in delivering PPE to practices.

Staff testing

Stansted and Ipswich are the two national testing centres in this area. In addition, Mid and South Essex CCGs have opened three local testing centres in Chelmsford, Basildon and Southend. All these centres are open to Essex key workers and test for COVID-19. These are not antibody tests.

Testing is available to key workers in Essex who are self-isolating because they or a member of their household is showing COVID-like symptoms. If the key worker does not have COVID-19 they are able to return to work.

There is a fast-track booking system which launched at the weekend. We are now waiting for the launch of a national booking system which may come online by the end of this week. Until then, if you are a key worker and are self-isolating, speak to your line manager in the first instance.

Thanks go to Simone Surgenor, Stephen Fry and Simon Leighton who have been working seven days a week to get this up and running and arranging bookings. The Stansted centre can take 400 bookings a day.

At the weekend, the list of those eligible for the test was extended to include the blue light services, local authority key workers and others. This will be expanded further to include essential private sector workers such as those who work in supermarkets, deliver medical supplies etc.

Ian is leading the work on the testing centres on behalf of the Essex Resilience Forum to co-ordinate access to the tests to all the services across the county.

We are aware that not everyone has access to a car, can drive and some people may be too ill to leave the house for a test. We are working in conjunction with the military, Red Cross and volunteers to see if we can deliver tests to people’s home in the interim. There is discussion about using Royal Mail to deliver tests to people’s homes but this hasn’t happened yet.

Coping with lockdown

We had hoped to hear from three CCG colleagues who were going to share their tips on coping with lockdown and working from home. Unfortunately, technology was not playing ball so we hope to hear from Cathy Saunders and Judy Hiscott next week.

We did hear from Naomi Hunt who has found a way to implement physical boundaries and rules to separate work/home life, which helps her keep a balance. For example, she uses her dining table at home to work so physically clears up her work things and puts them away at the end of the work day to make sure she doesn’t end up working longer hours each day. She also has a call scheduled with her sister at a specific time each day to make sure she doesn’t run over with work unless it’s absolutely necessary.

If you have any ideas you can share with colleagues to make their day lighter and easier, the Communications team would love to hear from you.

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