Together We’re Better COVID-19 Stakeholder Update

Last week it was announced that the world’s first COVID-19 ‘human challenge’ trial will take place in the UK in a few weeks. This is where young healthy volunteers will be deliberately infected with COVID-19 to test vaccines and treatments.

The study has received ethics approval and will recruit 90 people aged between 18 and 30 years old. Health professionals will monitor the participants’ health while they are exposed to the virus in a safe and controlled environment. It will be interesting to hear what sort of results this study produces.

It is also reassuring to hear that since January, there has been a significant decline in levels of COVID-19 infections in England. According to Imperial College London’s REACT study, infections have dropped by two-thirds across England. However. they stress that virus levels are still high, with one in 200 people testing positive between 4 and 13 February 2021.

This is why, even with the tremendous success of the vaccine roll-out, we must still be cautious and remember that we are in a national lockdown that requires us to stay at home. If you do have to go out for essential reasons then you must wear a face covering, keep washing your hands and maintain social distancing.

We’re continuing to see the decline in cases locally which is positive, albeit slower than we would like. We’re below the West Midlands average, however, are still higher than the England average of 133 per 100,000. Stoke-on-Trent has declined again and was last week hovering around the 148 per 100,000 and Staffordshire was at just below 200. However, we’re still seeing a significant divergence in cases between the South and North of the county, with Cannock almost double the rate of Newcastle-under-Lyme and the Moorlands. East Staffordshire is still on our local watch list, due to the higher positivity rate and current rate of 243 per 100,000.

We know it will take time for the same decline to be seen in the NHS and our hospitals continue to be under a lot of pressure. Tragically, we also saw the death of another porter at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM) last Monday, reminding us of the devastating impact this virus is having for our frontline NHS.

We’re all grateful to see the death rates coming down in our hospitals and care homes, but we still have a long way to go.

Waiting times has been another story in the media, and this will be the next challenge once we are out of this current wave. The Choice and Referral centre has been doing a fantastic job to transfer patients awaiting treatment at UHNM to the Independent sector. This is helping patients to get the urgent treatment they need and reduce the elective backlogs and reduce long-waiters. Over the last few weeks patients from UHNM have been contacted and offered the option to receive treatment in either Rowley Hall or Nuffield Hospitals – over 770 patients have so far been booked into these sites.

Locally, we’re also starting to see some glimmers of hope for the vaccine. Early signs show that the numbers of outbreaks in care homes is reducing. It is too early to be certain this is a long-term trend, however NHS and local authority teams think this is thanks to the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine. We know the impact this virus has had on care home residents and staff, so we’re all hoping this positive trend will continue.

Over 300,000 vaccines have been delivered so far locally. We know that over 98% of our over 80s, 100% of 75–79 year olds and 93% of our 70-74-year olds have received the vaccine and as a system we met the Government’s target to offer a vaccine to everyone in priority cohorts 1-4 by the beginning of last week.

Although these numbers are impressive, they don’t tell the whole story and once again we’re seeing first-hand the barriers that exist within our society. If you have been following the media this week, you will know that some Black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) and deprived communities are not coming forward for the vaccine.

We’re seeing a similar trend locally. The numbers in these early cohorts who have not come forward may be small, but there is a worrying trend in the uptake for certain communities.

You can read more local COVID-19 news in the COVID-19 vaccination bulletin.

Team Prevent UK has produced a video breaking down the myths surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Featuring clear, simple facts about COVID-19 and why it is vital that we all continue to follow the guidance. The video aims to help people to understand how the virus works and why it is important to continue to adhere to government guidance.

At our local vaccination centres over half of those on duty at any time can be volunteers. The volunteers, who are helping make Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent’s COVID-19 vaccination programme a success have been thanked for their efforts.

If you would like to become a volunteer you can find more information on the Together We’re Better website.

Overexposure to the news and constantly absorbing news stories related to COVID19 can cause a lot of fear, anxiety and worry, so taking breaks from or reducing the amount of news you follow can be helpful. Be mindful of how much time you are spending on news channels and switch to more positive activities for your own wellbeing. We all need to keep up-to-date with what is happening in relation to the virus, but it doesn’t need to be all-consuming, especially if it starts to affect your mental health.

Away from the subject of COVID-19 you may have noticed some television adverts aired this week from the new Lung Cancer Symptoms campaign. The campaign highlights a cough that lasts for three weeks or more could be a sign of lung cancer and encourages anyone who has this symptom to contact their GP practice.

Despite lung cancer being the third most common cancer in England, suspected lung cancer referrals remain lower than normal. As of December 2020, lung cancer referrals had reached 73% of pre-COVID-19 levels, while referrals for all cancers were just over 100%.

There are some online events happening this month that you may find of interest:

Healthwatch Staffordshire are holding a number of public meetings to find out what health and social care services are important to you. You can register onto any of the public meetings to support your local Healthwatch to shape it’s new annual priorities for April 2021 – March 2022. You can follow the links below to register:-

Friday 26th February 10am – 12 noon 

Friday 26th February 1pm – 3pm.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic a much larger proportion of patient appointments are via phone, text or video consultation. Webinars have been arranged to help patients with raised blood pressure or atrial fibrillation learn more about their health conditions and what you can do using digital aids.

The webinars have been collated with experienced nurses and doctors who will endeavour to help patients to understand more about their condition and to be prepared for different formats of consultation, such as texting and video consultation.

Nurses Kevin and Ann will be available to answer questions in the chat box and live questions will also be taken at the end of the webinar by Dr Ruth.

Digital delivery of care – hypertension
Tuesday 2 March, 6.00pm – 7.00pm and Monday 8 March, 12.30pm – 1.30pm

To help anyone who has a raised blood pressure (hypertension) or thinks they might have it, to learn more about what they can do to get it confirmed; or get their blood pressure under control. This webinar will help you learn more about your health condition and what you can do using digital aids to manage your blood pressure better, in line with the treatment you have agreed with your practice nurse or GP.
You can download a flyer with further information and a link to join the webinar here.

Digital delivery of self-care of atrial fibrillation
Monday 1 March, 12.30pm – 1.30pm and Tuesday 9 March, 6.00pm – 7.00pm

To help anyone who has been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF – having an irregular heart rate diagnosed) or thinks they might have it, to learn more about what they can do to get it confirmed; or optimise their treatment and adopt healthy lifestyle habits. You can download a flyer with further information and a link to join the webinar here.

Public Health England has updated its coronavirus guidance in light of changes to the government’s advice and continue to ensure guidance for the public is timely and up to date. All guidance for members of the public, as well as for people in clinical and non-clinical settings, is published and updated regularly on the GOV.UK collection page.

For the latest information on coronavirus, please visit the NHS and government websites.

Together We’re Better is the partnership of NHS and local government organisations, alongside independent and voluntary sector groups, that is working together to transform health and care services. You can find out more about us on our website:

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