This report will provide an update on the Local Outbreak Management Plan (LOMP) including top-level outcomes of recent stress tests made since the last update was presented to the Board on 13 April 2021.
The Board noted the Government’s recent announcement of deferring the move to Step 4 of the National Spring Roadmap until 19 July and received an update on the Local Outbreak Management Plan (LOMP) presented by the Director of Public Health (DPH). He advised that the local rate of infection was 41.6 per 100,000 people as compared to 72.7 in England, 42 in the South East and 595 in the North West, and there would likely be an increase in infection rates in the near future. The DPH however assured members that the LOMP would be refreshed regularly and adapted as necessary to meet emerging threats and challenges. He stressed that in running up to Step 4, due to start on 19 July, precautionary measures would continue to be undertaken, including the roll-out of vaccination for 18+, robust asymptomatic testing, and the extension of the period for the legislative framework to implement Step 3. Members expressed appreciation of the efforts of all involved in vaccination and testing, in particular the health partners.
Members then raised a number of questions and comments which included:
Local health and care – in response to a question about ways to deal with backlogs in the health and care system, the DPH advised that it took time to clear the backlogs and normalize the system. He explained that the unprecedented nature of system challenges, arising from the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 18 months, had a clear significant impact on quality improvement activity locally. There had been challenges in relation to improving access to primary care and also some elective services amidst the pandemic. The authorities were aware of the need to increase the capacity of, and access to, primary care services in specific localities across Medway. With additional funding in place, joint efforts were made to catch up the processes and normalize the system from a clinical service perspective.
Continual public awareness – members expressed concerns that following negligible rate of infection and easing of restrictions, the general public might become complacent and fail to take recommended precautions, which might result in outbreaks of a wider scale. In response, the DPH agreed that the public should recognise COVID-19 could be recurrent like flu and should stay vigilant. Vaccination and booster for the virus might happen annually or seasonally. He further advised that public engagement under the LOMP would continue to be made through the Kent and Medway Local Outbreak Engagement Board and the Plan would be kept under constant review.
Compulsory vaccination for care workers – addressing members’ concerns about staff recruitment and retention if vaccination for care workers (and potentially other workforce) became compulsory, the DPH explained that the new provision would be part of legislation. Individual health and care service providers had to comply with the legal requirement, whereas the Council, being the service commissioner, would play an oversight role.
Business as usual – comment was made that despite the pandemic, the Council, including members, officers and partners all endeavoured to carry on business as usual, tackling issues such as smoking cessation and obesity support to safeguard the well-being of people in Medway.
The Health and Wellbeing Board noted the update presented in the report.