Update from Jane Halpin: returning to the office

The latest guidance from Jane Halpin and Peter Wightman on returning to the office…

Dear colleague

Thank you very much to those of you filled out the survey form we sent out last week about your covid vaccinations. We wanted to let you know the results of that survey, and also to remind people about the continued expectations around good infection and control measures as people start to use the offices more and get out and about in general, in ways they haven’t for many months.

More than half of our staff responded to the survey, and it was pleasing to see that 97% of those who got in touch reported having had both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This is very reassuring. For those who haven’t yet had the jab, you can do so anytime by booking online or walking into one of the hundreds of drop-in vaccination clinics running across our patch. Details of these drop-ins, together with lots of helpful and reassuring information about the vaccines are available here on the ICS Healthier Future website.

From 16 August the self-isolation rules for close contacts changes, which means that those who have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days and under-18s won’t need to self-isolate if a close contact contracts COVID. Another great reason to get those two vaccine doses! Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will of course still have to quarantine, regardless of their vaccination status.

In terms of the impact of government restrictions being lifted next week, we are not planning any major changes to the way our offices operate – or indeed any changes to the plans in place for office re-openings – *see note from Peter Wightman below.

In line with government guidance we are still encouraging people to take regular lateral flow tests. Some people are doing this twice a week as per guidelines, and we are keen that all colleagues take a test before coming into an office. You can order them to test yourself at home – for free – order coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid lateral flow tests, or pick them up, also at no charge, from your local pharmacy. Remember this is the test for anyone without COVID-19 symptoms. Doing regular testing helps protect you, your colleagues, friends and family and is available to anyone. It is estimated that one in three people with COVID-19 do not have symptoms and can still infect others around them, without knowing. This makes it even more important that we all take these tests every few days, particularly when we are planning to head into the office or anywhere we will have contact with other people.

Remember that if you do have COVID-19 symptoms, it is a different test that needs to be taken – the PCR test. These can be ordered online or you can book a walk-in or drive-through appointment. In the event that you are showing symptoms of COVID-19, you and (until 16 August) everyone you live with must self-isolate immediately until you receive your test results, even if your close contacts are all double-jabbed.

We are also continuing with a range of infection control measures in all our offices – such as limiting the numbers of people on the premises at any one time, ensuring that people don’t sit too closely together, asking people to wear face coverings when walking around the office, and providing plenty of hand-sanitiser. We really do want everyone to feel safe in all of our office facilities, and we know that colleagues want us to continue with these kinds of measures, and to take a cautious approach.

Finally, in terms of how people handle a transition to new arrangements, we are keen to accommodate individuals’ own preferences and circumstances, and also to take account of the needs of each team to achieve the right balance between working in the office and working at home. We know that some staff want and need opportunities for in-person collaboration. The use of office space is likely to be primarily for that kind of joint project and team work, where being in the same place at the same time will really have a positive impact. We also understand that for some colleagues, working in the office is better for them and their personal circumstances, rather than being at home.

We will continue to try to make our arrangements work as best we can and to support each other.

I hope you have found this information useful.

With best wishes

Dr Jane Halpin
Joint Chief Executive Officer | Herts and West Essex ICS and CCGs

A return to the office?

The rules for working from Spencer Close are unlikely to change for now…

Dear colleague

Over the last year most of us have been working from home. Now Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions from Monday 19 July, many people may be wondering if that means it’s time to come back to Spencer Close.

Buildings 1, 2 and 3 will remain as vaccination centres for the foreseeable future, which means we only have Building 4 available as office space.

As Jane Halpin said during the ICS all staff briefing on Tuesday (13 July) and in her letter above, it’s likely things will eventually evolve to a mixture of home and office working. This will be an arrangement made between you and your line manager. We need a few weeks to get Building 4 ready for general use, including setting up a booking system for hot desking and other preparations. For now, we ask you continue your current working balance across office and home.

We’re just waiting on national guidance around safety measures in NHS settings before we make any changes. Once we have these, we can work out next steps, how we can do this and share it with you.

For the next few weeks, please only come into the office to work if you really need to.

Building 4 is the only available office space, so if you do need to come into the office, please follow these guidelines:

  • Let Jackie Hall in reception know in advance that you want to come in (if you can)
  • Sign in when you arrive at Spencer Close reception
  • Clear the desk you use completely – please do not leave your belongings at the desk or in the office when you leave

We hope to come back with more details in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you have any questions please email the Communications team.

Peter Wightman
Managing Director
West Essex CCG

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