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Keep wearing a mask in healthcare settings

Covid restrictions after 19 July

NHS health teams across the region are set to continue with the current pandemic safety measures for the foreseeable future to help protect everyone from infections such as Covid-19 and flu.

The safety measures introduced nationally during the pandemic have helped not only protect staff, patients and visitors over the past year, but enabled the NHS to continue providing many of the non-urgent services that would otherwise have been postponed.

Healthcare settings across Northumberland are asking for patients and visitors to continue wearing a face covering after 19 July. This includes GP practices, hospitals, dental practices, optometrists and pharmacies.

Staff, patients and visitors will also be expected to continue to follow social distancing rules and wash their hands regularly when visiting any health or social care setting.
These measures can help you protect yourself and other people and prevent the spread of infection. This will help keep services open and limit any disruption.
While the government roadmap plans to remove measures like this from everyday life from 19 July it’s vital that the public can be confident about accessing or visiting local healthcare services safely.
Covid-19 Vaccination Programme

Covid-19 Vaccination Programme

In response to some of the questions people in Northumberland have raised about the Covid-19 vaccination programme, NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has put together a series of short videos. These will hopefully address some of the common concerns we have been hearing about the vaccination programme.

The CCG is responsible for the planning and buying of local NHS services for people in Northumberland.

In the videos, Richard Hay, Head of Planning and Operations at Northumberland CCG talks about how the Covid-19 vaccination programme is going in the county, addresses concerns over supply and safety of the vaccine, and how people will be contacted with an appointment for to get theirs.

 

One minute videos:

Why am I being offered an appointment for my vaccination so far away?

Should we be worried about the supply of the Covid-19 vaccine in Northumberland?

Why isn’t there a large vaccination centre in Northumberland?

Are people in Northumberland having to wait longer for their Covid-19 vaccination than people in other parts of the country?

Is the Covid-19 vaccination safe?

Why am I being told not to contact my GP about my vaccination appointment?

If I’ve had my Covid-19 vaccine, why can’t I mix with other people?

 

Podcast: How the vaccination programme is going in Northumberland, with Richard Hay of Northumberland CCG.

 

Visit our Covid-19 Information Page

Covid-19 Vaccinations: April 2021

Covid-19 Vaccinations Northumberland

As we head into April, priority for vaccinations in Northumberland is being given to those who are due their second dose, with any extra available vaccinations going to those in priority groups 1 – 9 who are yet to have a first dose. People in groups 1 – 9 will continue to be invited for their vaccination in age order.

If you are due a second dose in the next few weeks and haven’t yet got an appointment, look out for a text message and keep an ear out for the telephone as you will be contacted soon.

Please don’t call your GP practice to ask when you will get an invitation to be vaccinated. Vaccination centres and GP practices have no control over supplies coming into the county and so are unable to tell patients when they might be invited to make an appointment. Your surgery still want to hear from you if you have an urgent medical issue.

Noone will be forgotten and everyone who would like a vaccination will be offered one over the coming weeks and months.

Government information on the Covid-19 vaccination programme

Covid-19 information for Northumberland

Care Home Visits: Public Forum

At our online forums recently we have heard how visiting restrictions in care homes have affected people living there and their relatives. We have also heard about people’s experiences of other ways of keeping in touch during Covid-19. From 8 March those who live in care homes will be able to receive one regular designated visitor.  We want to hear from you about your experience of this change, and what would help as restrictions are gradually eased.

We are holding another online forum on 31 March from 2.00 – 3.30pm where Dr Jim Brown, Consultant in Public Health at Northumberland County Council and Alan Curry, Senior Manager – Commissioning Northumberland County Council, will be there to answer your questions on the visiting guidance for care homes from a public health and county council perspective and what we may expect for care home visits in Northumberland as we move on from Covid-19.

If you would like to register for a space please contact helenb@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk or call us on 03332 408468.

If you cannot come along but have a question you would like an answer to, send it to us and we will ask it for you.

You can also tell us about how you’ve kept in touch with relatives in care homes here

 

 

More on care home visits guidance as of 8 March

Care Home visits Northumberland

Guidance on Care Home Visits

Can I visit someone in a care home?

All care home residents can nominate a single named visitor for indoor visiting. These visits will be supported by providing visitors with rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests on every visit and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Those with highest care needs can also nominate an ‘essential family carer’. With the agreement of the care home, these visitors will have access to the same testing and PPE as care home staff, so they can provide support with washing and dressing or eating well.

For those not nominated as single named visitors, visits can still be arranged outdoors, in visiting ‘pods’, behind windows, or behind substantial screens.

It is recommended that care homes operate a simple booking or appointments system to enable visits.

In the event of outbreaks, care homes should immediately stop visiting (except in exceptional circumstances, such as end of life) to protect vulnerable residents, staff and visitors.

Vaccination is not mandatory and is not a condition of visiting.

 

How do I find out the visiting policy of a care home?

Each home is unique, so providers will design their own visiting arrangements that take into account the needs of their residents and what is possible within the layout and facilities of that home.

In producing these policies, providers should work collaboratively with residents, families and local social care and health professionals to strike a good balance between the risks and benefits of visiting.

Visiting policies should be made available and/or communicated to residents and families.

 

Do I need to take a test to be able to visit my relative?

If you are visiting a care home resident as a named visitor, you will be required to take a rapid LFD test and test negative before every visit. If visitors test positive, they must immediately return home, self-isolate and complete a further test which will be provided to them by the care home. The care home provider should provide full details on their testing process and obtain consent from visitors prior to their participation in testing. If you have arranged with your local care home to be a resident’s ‘essential care giver’, you will be supported to follow the same testing arrangements in place for care home staff. Those visiting loved ones indoors at the end of their lives may be offered a test on arrival for their visit, but those visiting residents outdoors will not require a test. However, if visitors are displaying any symptoms of coronavirus, they should not visit the care home, self-isolate and order a test immediately.All visitors may be asked screening questions upon arrival. These may include:

  • Have you been feeling unwell recently?
  • Have you had recent onset of a new continuous cough?
  • Do you have a high temperature? A care home may consider providing a temperature check for all visitors to provide confidence to visitors and to staff.
  • Have you noticed a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell?
  • Have you tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 10 days?
  • Have you had recent contact (in the last 14 days) with anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or someone with confirmed COVID-19 – if yes, should you be self-isolating as a family member or as a contact advised to do so by NHS Test and Trace?
  • Have you returned from an overseas visit recently and are you still in the quarantine period?

 

What is likely to change when I visit my loved one?

Indoor visits may take place in designated visiting rooms, but in all cases, they should take place in a well-ventilated room. Those visiting indoors must observe strict social distancing from other residents, visitors and staff at all times, and follow care home policies in place for testing and use of appropriate PPE. There may be some instances where visits are supervised, for example during a visitor’s first visit. This should be clearly explained in the care home’s visiting policy.Any additional visits should take place where possible outside. Other appropriate visits include:

  • Visits under a cover such as an awning, gazebo or open-sided marquee, where residents and visitors remain at least 2 metres apart.
  • Visits in temporary outdoor structures, such as COVID-secure visiting areas/pods which are enclosed to some degree but are still outside the main building of the home. These areas can only allow one visiting party at a time, will require good ventilation and screens between residents and visitors.
  • Visits in a dedicated room such as a conservatory, which can be accessed from outside of the home. These areas can only allow one visiting party at a time, will require good ventilation and screens between residents and visitors.
  • Visits at a window.

 

What should I do to keep the person I am visiting safe?

Named visitors should be tested using rapid LFD tests before every visit, must wear the appropriate PPE, and follow all other infection control measures. The care home will guide visitors on infection control measures.Visitors and residents may wish to hold hands but are advised to keep physical contact to a minimum as any contact increases the risk of transmission.Visitors should also be careful to ensure they observe strict social distancing from other residents, visitors and staff at all times.

 

How often can I visit a care home?

Care homes will decide how often and for how long it is possible for named visitors to come into the home. This is likely to be depend on practical considerations, such as the layout of the home and the numbers of residents and families who may wish to have visits. In practice this may mean that the frequency of visits is limited, however, local Directors of Public Health may provide advice to homes allowing more regular visiting if they are confident that infection control measures and other arrangements are in place.For outdoor visits, the guidance recommends a maximum of two visitors at any one time.This is in order to limit the overall numbers of visitors to the care home and the consequent risk of disease transmission.

 

What happens if there is an outbreak at the care home?

If there is a declared outbreak in a care home, then it is recommended that visiting be restricted, with only ‘end of life’ visits recommended. These restrictions will continue until the care home has been assessed to be in recovery. You should be informed of this.

 

What happens if I can’t see my family or friend in the care home?

If providers are unable to safely allow visits in line with new guidance, alternative ways of communicating between residents and their families and friends should be discussed and offered. The care home should also provide regular updates to residents’ loved ones on their mental and physical health, how they are coping and identify any additional ways they might be better supported, including any cultural or religious needs.

 

Can a care home resident come and visit me out of the care home?

Current guide states that care homes should support visits out of homes in exceptional circumstances, such as to visit to a friend or relative at the end of their life. These visits can only happen in agreement with the home and will be subject to individual and whole home risk assessments.

 

The guidance for visits out of homes will be updated shortly.

 

Tell us your experience of care home visits

Covid-19 vaccinations – the next phase

The Covid-19 vaccination programme in Northumberland, led by Primary Care Networks of GP practices has been successful in offering a vaccine to those in priority groups 1 to 4 – those aged 70 and over – by 15 February 2021. Thank you to those who have had their vaccine and who are helping to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities. If you are over 70 and haven’t had your first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine yet, please contact your GP straight away or make an appointment here, or by phoning 119.

The next phase of the programme is to vaccinate those in priority groups 5 to 9 (everybody over 50 years of age) and the target date for this is 15 April 2021. This phase will also include delivering second doses of the vaccine to those already vaccinated in January and February.

If you are in group 5 (over 65 years) or group 6 (those aged between 16 and 64 who have underlying health conditions) you will be invited by your GP practice to have the vaccine at one of ten hubs across the county or you may receive a letter inviting you to make an appointment at the Centre for Life in Newcastle. If travelling to Newcastle is inconvenient for you, you can ignore the letter and choose to wait to hear from your GP about having the vaccination at a hub closer to where you live.

Read more about the NHS in Northumberland’s reassurance that people can choose to have their vaccine at a hub closer to home.

You don’t need to call your practice; you won’t be forgotten and will be contacted when it’s your turn – look out for a letter, listen for the phone and check for text messages, as you could be contacted in any one of these ways.

GP practices will be calling people on the basis of:

  • Age – this is by far the most significant factor in determining an individual’s level of risk of complications or serious illness as a result of Covid-19 infection
  • Comorbidity – individuals with a number of underlying health conditions have an increased level of risk from Covid-19
  • Ethnicity – individuals from a BAME background are more at risk from Covid-19

You can be prepared ahead of your vaccination appointment by thinking about how you might travel to the centre, make sure you arrive on time and take your NHS number with you if possible – this can be found on letters from your GP or hospital or your prescription.

Visit our Coronavirus Information Page for more on the pandemic.

Public concerns about dentistry continue

New data gathered by Healthwatch England shows access to NHS dentistry remains a huge problem for the public amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Healthwatch continues to hear concerns about dentistry which were highlighted at the end of last year in the Dentistry and the impact of COVID-19 report after a 452% rise in calls and complaints over the summer (July – September).
In a follow-up review, Healthwatch looked at 1,129 people’s experiences of accessing dental care received between October and December 2020 and found:
  • Access to dentistry was difficult for more than seven in 10 people (72%), with some people actively seeking dental treatment being told they would have to wait anywhere between a few months to, in one case, two years for an appointment.
  • Access to urgent NHS treatment was difficult for people with painful teeth, with patients being told that dental pain was not considered an “emergency”, and for those who were prescribed multiple courses of antibiotics by NHS 111 without being provided any further treatment.
  • Examples of the extreme lengths some people went to, to get treatment, include calling over 40 practices to find an NHS dentist, and pulling their own teeth out when they couldn’t bear the pain.
  • When dentists couldn’t offer an appointment, they advised people to buy dental repair kits to treat themselves.

The findings come after some MPs and the British Dental Association called on the Government to scrap its new targets for NHS dentists, which require them to deliver 45% of their pre-pandemic levels of dental activity.

There are concerns this is likely to push practices into prioritising appointments such as check-ups over emergency or more complex longer treatments.

Healthwatch’s findings also suggest that patients are being told that although NHS appointments are not available, they can be treated privately. This creates a real barrier for everyone, and in particular for people on low income, to receive vital treatment.

Tell us about your experience of dental care during the pandemic here or text 07413 385275 and one of our friendly team will call you back.

Keeping People Connected Project

Northumberland Independent Advocacy Service is running a project called Keeping People Connected. The aim of the project, which was first delivered by People First at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, is to support people with learning disabilities and/or autism who have no other access to support from family or other agencies, to link with local services during lockdown.

The service is being run until 31 March 2021, thanks to funding from NHS Northumberland Clinical Comissioning Group. Referrals are welcome for people who have a learning disability, learning difficulty or autism who qualify for, and would benefit from, independent telephone support from experienced, friendly and specialist professionals to gain access to services throughout the county.

The organisations involved will help people to:

  • Understand what ‘staying at home’ or ‘staying alert’ means
  • Understand the guidance on how to stay safe and not catch the virus, who to contact and where to go
  • Understand and treat any symptoms and illness they might have and generally look after themselves in this difficult time
  • Decide what immediate support they might need e.g. getting food or medication, knowing how to ask for help in an emergency
  • Know where to access more support services and connect to local groups
  • Feel supported, by staying in touch on an ongoing basis, if needed
  • Solve problems if things go wrong
  • Get help from other services where needed

More information and the referral form

Care Homes – keeping in touch with loved ones

Care home lockdown: how are you keeping in touch with your loved one?

As we enter a further period where visiting relatives in care homes is restricted, we want to hear how this is affecting you and your loved ones. What information have you had about keeping in touch and maintaining communications about care and wellbeing?

We are particularly keen to hear if you managed to be tested and have an ‘in person’ visit during December.

We would like to know your experience of:

  • Using video calls (FaceTime, Zoom etc.) or telephone calls – does the home support these? How many times a week and how long? Does a member of staff help your loved one with the call?
  • Socially distanced visits – does the home support ‘window’ visits.  How many times a week and how for long?
  • How does the home keep you informed about how your loved one is getting on (apart from necessary issues about their care or health), for example, manager updates, photographs, videos
  • Does the home have a programme of group and one-to-one activities? Has your loved one taken part?
  • Has the home asked you what, within the current restrictions, would make this time easier?
  • What, within the current restrictions, would make it better for you and your love one?
  • When restrictions are eventually eased (not totally lifted) what would help you and your loved one?

You can tell us your experiences at one of the ways here on our contact page, text us on 07413 385275 to make an appointment to speak to one of our team, or come along to our public online forum around these issues on Wednesday 27 January, 1.00pm – 2.00pm.

If you would like to take part in the forum please contact Laura Haugh: laurah@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk, or call 03332 408468.

Covid-19 and NHS dental care

Healthwatch England is calling for action to address widespread issues with access to NHS dental care following an unprecedented surge in concerns. Healthwatch experienced a 452% increase in feedback on the issue in the second quarter of the year, with continuing accounts of people being left in pain, resorting to ‘DIY’ repair methods and in some cases even extracting their own teeth.

The review of 1,300 people’s experiences of accessing dental care found that:

  • More than 7 in 10 people (73%) found it difficult to access help and support when they needed it.
  • Access issues were caused by dentists not taking on NHS patients, as well as conflicting advice from different parts of the NHS about what help is available.
  • Many people were offered treatment if they went private, despite research indicating that 40% of people would struggle to afford private dental care.
  • The impact of not being able to access care led many people to experience pain, discomfort and further complications.

The increase in feedback comes after the British Dental Association reported that treatments delivered by NHS dental services in England are at a quarter of pre-COVID levels, with over 14.5 million fewer procedures taking place.

Laura Floyd, from West Berkshire, was part-way through significant dental treatment when it was cancelled due to the lockdown in March. The new mother explained: “As we went from April to May, I had an abscess develop on the tooth which was still awaiting treatment. I did receive care over the phone and a course of antibiotics which helped ease some of the pain and swelling but this never fully went away, I just lived with it as cautiously as I could. Sadly my eight-month-old wasn’t as cautious when reaching out and grabbing my face!”

Laura, who was entitled to free NHS dental care for 12 months after the birth of her child, did then receive some emergency treatment for a further painful cavity but is still waiting for her main treatment to be completed a year on from her initial diagnosis.

Sir Robert Francis QC, Chair of Healthwatch England, said: “The COVID-19 crisis has impacted on many areas of NHS support but, problems in dental care appear to be particularly acute.

“Even before the pandemic, people were telling us about problems in accessing NHS dental appointments but since the start of the summer these reports have hugely increased.

“If we don’t improve access to NHS dental care, not only do people risk facing far greater dental problems in the future but it also puts pressure on overstretched hospitals and GPs. Untreated dental problems can lead to pain, infection and the risk of long-term harm, which is comparable with other medical conditions.

“Health and care services are working hard to deal with the pandemic, but we believe the Government and the NHS should give more attention to resolving both long-standing and COVID-related issues in dentistry.”

While the report accepts that the overall treatment backlog caused by the pandemic will take time to clear due to limited industry capacity and COVID-related restrictions, it makes several recommendations including:

  • providing more accurate and up-to-date information for patients
  • providing clarity over NHS dentists’ obligations relating to patient registration
  • making more resources available to improve patient access to
    dental care and;
  • reviewing the overall cost to patients of NHS dental care, particularly with a 5% price increase set to take effect before Christmas.

Healthwatch is also calling for people on low incomes who are forced to travel long distances to access dental care to be reimbursed.

Read more on the Healthwatch England website

If you would like to tell us about your experience of accessing dental care during the pandemic you can tell us your story here.