Staff briefing roundup

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

Thank you to everyone for taking the time to join the staff briefing today. It was also great to hear how Judy Hiscott and Cathy Saunders are coping with lockdown. Read on to see their tips on staying in touch.

Andrew started by explaining that we can expect this current situation to continue in some form until July at least. The curve of demand is better and the demand on ventilator beds is less than expected, while the use of non-invasive ventilators is better than before. However, the general oxygen therapy is leaning towards the worst case scenario at the moment.

We are expecting a big national announcement next Thursday, which may give us an indication on the state of play with restrictions going forward.

We have also had some information from the Department of Health and Social Care to suggest we have probably passed the peak of this virus. Looking ahead, there will be a phase running from 10 May to 31 July. It will focus again on the critical services, how hospitals, community services and general practice work and how individuals without COVID symptoms can continue to be seen. Demand on primary care and A&E have been down. Princess Alexandra Hospital’s A&E four-hour wait times have been on green. In addition, referrals have been down and activity around referrals for heart disease and cancers are all down.

The following phase will take us from 1 August 2020 to 31 March 2021. This will focus on rejuvenating the NHS and supporting it as it goes into winter with all the seasonal winter pressures. From 1 April 2021, there will be discussions around the NHS going forward, but there are no details as yet on what that means or involves.

Incident set up

As well as the Incident Management Team (IMT), Primary Care cell and System Co-ordination team, there will also be a group looking at recovery and what that means. James Roach will lead on this.

Immediate future

We’ll be looking at how we can get some colleagues back into work in the office here in Epping while still keeping a sharp eye on social distancing and proper work practices. It all depends on work priorities. These discussions haven’t started yet.


As you know, we have cancelled all sub-committee meetings, but these will begin again from June with slimmed down agendas. Board meetings will continue virtually.

Hot hubs

Rob explained the hot hubs were up and running and very quiet. However, he said the big area in primary care will be managing the shielded, high-risk patients and being ready for the surge in patient demand as people feel more confident to contact their GP with urgent and less urgent needs. We will continue to be very busy as we come out of lockdown.

Primary care will need to look at how we provide home visits and end of life care. We are working with PCNs to help them to develop. Virtual consultations will be the norm although face-to-face will continue.


The Secretary of State’s target of achieving 100,000 staff tests looks set to meet its goal by Thursday this week. Ian explained this includes testing of key workers from across the NHS and partners, but also other essential workers.

There are national centres at Stansted, Ipswich, Lee Valley Athletics Stadium and Peterborough. Three others, which are run locally by Mid and South Essex CCGs, are in Basildon, Southend and Chelmsford. The national centres have a national online booking system while the local centres are booked separately by Mid and South Essex CCGs.

The national online booking system temporarily closed, after launching last Friday, due to high demand. It is now up and running again. Home testing kits are available for those unable to travel, but again there is high demand. Individuals can self-refer and book online for a test if they are a key worker and have symptoms, or they live in a household with someone who is displaying symptoms. Tests are for all adults and children from the age of five, but not for those under five years-old.

If you need to be tested, please contact your line manager. If you would like to attend a local centre run by Mid and South Essex CCGs please let us know and we can book it for you.

Care homes and PPE

Care home data from the Office for National Statistics shows one third of deaths from COVID are in care homes.

We’ve been taking PPE deliveries from all routes and are advising all GP practices to continue sourcing their PPE from their normal channels.


Question 1

It was confirmed at the last staff briefing that, due to the ongoing pandemic, the current homeworking arrangements will be continuing for the foreseeable. Could you please advise how staff can get essentials to be able to do this long term – such as office equipment – laptop stands, printer cartridges etc. if required. Would this be through an expenses claim or would we have to order through the CCG?

Also, I have found myself using my mobile phone for calls and data and don’t like giving my personal number out for work purposes. Are there plans to issue work mobile phones for those that require them?

Answer 1

We don’t want to see colleagues out of pocket, but we would ask if there is anything you need to be able to do your work then please speak to your line manager in the first instance. They will be able to explain what is or isn’t appropriate and help you get what you need.

Mobile phone usage depends on which organisations you are speaking with. We all have Microsoft Teams on our computers, which we can use internally and with other NHS organisations. There is also Webex. These may not be for everyone but they are available. If anyone is struggling with any of these, please speak to your line manager.

With regards to printer cartridges, we should first be considering whether we need to print to save on paper, but also printing some material on a personal printer could have data and governance issues. Printing is not the best way forward.

If you need equipment, such as chairs and screens, to support you to work comfortably at home, then you are welcome to come to the office and take your chairs, keyboards and screens to use at home. Some colleagues have already done this and others are welcome to until they return to office working. If you decide to come to the office, please let Jackie Hall know for health and safety reasons.

Question 2

Is the CCG reimbursing for broadband usage where staff have had to increase speed?

Answer 2

As with the other query, if broadband speed is an issue please speak to your manager in the first instance. If the solution is you need to up your broadband speed for a while we would reimburse you on that. However, this issue is not unique to west Essex so we will take advice on whether there is a national policy on this.

Colleagues’ top tips

Last week we heard from Naomi who shared her tips on balancing home and life while working from home. This week we heard from Cathy Saunders and Judy Hiscott.

Read Cathy’s presentation.

Judy explained: “I have good days and bad, I really miss my work family. But that’s not surprising as we spend eight hours a day with our work colleagues on average, we get to know their family members, special days in their life, even down to what they had for dinner the night before, so to not have that all of a sudden is a cultural shock.

“It was a novelty at first working from home, but I miss even the drive to and from work as my bit of down time.

“I have also found feelings of guilt if I am away from my desk for any period of time and have found that I do not take breaks like I would normally have done within the office, as in going to the printer, having lunch, chatting to colleagues etc.

“On bad days it can take me quite a while to just settle in to the working day as there is a feeling of needing to escape the confines and the brain does not want to function, I have found that by the end of the day if I Stagg on I am back on an even keel.

“I am very lucky in the location of my ‘office’ as I do get to safely speak to passers-by quite legitimately, unless I am in a meeting and trying to take notes and record, then it can become either very noisy or distracting. Most people around me are aware that I am working and respect that. So even though they may be passing with a noisy trolley they are mouthing ‘sorry’ to me.”

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