An update from the Director of Public Health on recent developments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Gloucestershire.
Sarah Scott, Director of Public Health, gave an update on Covid-19 related data for Gloucestershire. The update referenced information included in the Gloucestershire Covid-19 Weekly Summary (Week 45) document, based on data for the period 2 to 8 November 2020. It was noted that the data was updated daily and that the information presented at this meeting was now retrospective. The summary sheet is attached to the minutes of the meeting and available on the GCC website.
Concerns were noted about the rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 cases across many parts of the county during recent weeks. The increase was notably larger in specific age groups, primarily the 19-35 age group and in elderly people. Data continued to be analysed daily and was under constant review.
Clarifying that the number of Covid-19 related cases in Gloucestershire continued to be lower than in other areas of the South West, the Director of Public Health hoped transmission rates would start to decline following the introduction of new lockdown measures. Concerns remained about the impact of the virus on the county on entering the winter period.
Robust track and trace testing was being carried across the county, with a Gloucestershire Contact Tracing Pilot being introduced from 19 November 2920.
Noting concerns about a recent experience at a mobile testing unit, a member was informed that the county was following strict government testing guidelines.
Questioning the arrangements for conducting tests in respect of care home staff, the Director of Public Health confirmed staff were tested weekly and care home residents every 28 days. It was noted that recent data indicated an increase in the number of staff contracting the virus but a slight decrease in the number of residents who tested positive. At the request of the committee, it was agreed to provide data on this issue after the meeting. Action by – Director of Public Health
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies plus training on how to conduct testing in care homes was being rolled out, in addition to revised guidance on the arrangements for care home visiting. The decision on whether to allow visiting in care homes was the responsibility for care home managers. The NHS CCG confirmed that there were fewer Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital from care homes during the second wave of the pandemic.
When asked what support members might provide to their local communities, the Director of Public Health reaffirmed the need to remain vigilant about adhering to basic government guidelines. This would be particularly important during the anticipated roll out of a possible vaccine prior to Christmas.
The Director of Public Health also reinforced, (on entering the second wave of the pandemic), the importance of raising awareness about the mental health support available across the county and, wherever possible, for members to encourage people to seek help, if needed. Referring to the significant number of factors that can influence a person’s mental health, Sarah advised the committee that promoting mental wellbeing was everyone’s business. It was suggested that a separate mental health briefing might be useful for all councillors/district representatives and the suggestion was noted. In the meantime, members were advised to promote the services commissioned by the Gloucestershire Public Health Team on the GCC website in their local areas.
Enquiring about the continuation of Mental Health First Aid training during the pandemic, the Director of Public Health agreed to make enquiries and report back via email the current position. Since the meeting, an email from Claire Procter, (Head of Commissioning - Sexual Health and Mental Wellbeing at Gloucestershire County Council), was circulated to the committee in response to the question.
Enquiring about the contact tracing pilot about to be launched in Gloucester later that week, it was confirmed that the decision to roll out the 2 week pilot in Gloucester City had been based on the urban and densely populated characteristics of the city. Members requested that that outcomes of the pilot be presented to the committee at a later date and the request was noted. Action by – Director of Public Health.
The committee thanked the Director of Public Health for the update, including the information on the multi-agency work being carried out in response to the pandemic.
The date of the joint committee meeting of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Adult Social Care and Communities Scrutiny Committee on 26 January 2021 was noted.