Our Week in 10 blog provides the latest intelligence and insight from our members across the health system. As the only membership organisation that brings together, supports and speaks on behalf of all healthcare organisations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we are uniquely placed to ensure the views of healthcare leaders across the system influence the government and its national bodies.
This blog, from NHS Confederation chief executive Danny Mortimer, captures what we are hearing from our members and how we are using your insights to influence on your behalf.
We continue to use our platform to tackle damaging falsehoods about the pandemic. We are now in the third week of our #CovidEmergency campaign and have written to your communications teams to share useful infographics, twitter cards and other collateral that provide facts and figures on the severity of the challenge. I’ve again been appearing across a range of national broadcast media this week, including on Sky News, Times Radio, BBC Radio 4’s PM and TalkRadio. See our latest infographic here.
02 Vaccine supply
There is concern and frustration among our members about supply. Some PCN sites are only receiving a third of the overall vaccine they could deliver and are having deliveries arrive with a few hours’ notice. This creates significant logistical issues and wastes staff time. We are making the case with the national bodies (including at a meeting between our Chair Lord Victor Adebowale and Nadim Zahawi) for clarity about future supply and a plan for vaccine deliveries to be rolled out according to a ‘pull’ rather than ‘push’ mechanism as soon as possible.
03 Vaccine hesitancy
We have heard from some members that uptake of the vaccine among BAME staff is proportionally lower than for white colleagues, though there is a need to examine this in more granular detail. There is also real concern around hesitancy, misinformation and ‘anti-vax’ sentiment among the public and disappointment that less is being done to combat this at national level. Some of these issues are of course long-standing and members are engaging with community leaders in their patches to address. The Confed hosted Race and Health Observatory is undertaking research into this issue and is hosting a webinar on 11 February.
04 COVID-19 and health inequalities
NHS England and NHS Improvement has been explicit that implementation of the vaccine programme should involve flexibility in deployment at a local level to mitigate health inequalities. This week, clinical directors from our PCN Network board have been visible in the national media addressing the health inequalities brought about by the pandemic. Dr Farzana Hussain and Kat Dalby-Welsh have appeared on various BBC programmes, and Dr Mark Spencer is due to appear next week, to outline the measures that need to be taken to ensure the vaccine roll-out does not further exacerbate health inequalities.
05 Transfers of care
In partnership with our networks for ICS leaders, clinical commissioners and the Community Network (the last delivered with NHS Providers), and our partners in ADASS and the LGA, we have been consistently raising the impact of barriers to quick patient discharge from hospital. It was good to see this issue start to be addressed in new guidance out this week. We will continue to advocate for more joined up and fair funding for colleagues in community and social care settings and recognise the significant pressures that these sectors are under. Read the Community Network’s response to the new guidance.
06 FFP3 guidance
In her capacity as co-chair of the national Social Partnership Forum, Rebecca Smith (the managing director of NHS Employers, part of the Confederation) has written to Chief Nurse Ruth May and Dr Susan Hopkins to understand whether PHE, along with NHS England and NHS Improvement, the Department of Health and Social Care and the public health bodies from the devolved nations, have reviewed or plan to review COVID-19 guidance for PPE as a result of the new variant. A key issue is whether PPE requirements need to be upgraded, and whether FFP3 masks should be issued as standard in all clinical settings. We will update members next week when we are expecting a response.
07 Staff mental health and wellbeing
We are hearing consistent concerns from members across the system about staff burnout. £15 million has been made available for fast-track access to psychological support for staff, but we know many are confused about how to access it. We are advising national bodies that this needs to be made clearer. We also know this commitment needs to be over the long term, with PTSD often presenting months after the crisis. Our consistent message to political leaders is to carefully manage public expectations on how long it will take to recover services, and the need to balance this with staff recovery.
08 Urgent and emergency care
Yesterday’s emergency care sitrep for England highlighted yet again the relentless strain on all parts of the NHS. There has been a near 12 per cent increase in the number of patients admitted to critical care (for COVID-19 or otherwise) week on week, with 5,176 patients in critical care this week compared to 4,632 last week. There are now more than 39,000 patients in hospital with COVID-19. Imperial College’s REACT-1 infection survey also revealed that rates of infection may no longer be falling. We are citing these figures to urge the public to do all they can to follow the lockdown rules.
The challenges in Northern Ireland have again increased in the last week challenging with increased hospital admissions, 96 per cent bed occupancies and approximately 10 per cent of all HSC staff currently absent from work. The unprecedented political step has been taken to provide access to 100 military health care staff to help the HSC. Meanwhile, the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol is causing disruption to supplies, including food, although the Northern Ireland Confederation says there are is currently no reported disruption to medical supplies.
09 Confed 2021
The combined Confed Expo event can’t take place again this year as we had hoped, but the Confederation annual conference will make a return, virtually at least, in June 2021. You can read our statement to members and partners and you can register your interest.
10 Rising pressure in Wales
This week the Welsh NHS Confederation published a briefing for politicians summarising the key information around the Covid-19 vaccination programme in Wales and the most important messages that members of the public should be aware of. Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, also released a statement and appeared on BBC Radio Wales highlighting how the NHS in Wales remains in a very precarious position.