On 14 May was Bury’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting. The overview and scrutiny role involves reviewing and scrutinising any matters relating to the planning provision and operation of health services in the area of the Council, scrutinising organisations external to the Council and holding the Leader / Cabinet Members to account. Councillor Cristina Tegolo reports:
Bury Health and Overview and Scrutiny Committee met remotely and questions were invited from members of the public in advance of the meeting.
Geoff Little, Chief Executive Bury Council provided an update on the work that the Health & Care system in Bury have undertaken in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Julie Gonda, Director of Adult Social Care, provided an update on Bury Local Care Organisation. Dr Jeff Schryer, Bury CCG Chair, provided a verbal update on the response to COVID-19.
In Bury we have now registered in total over 100 deaths, with 39 deaths in care homes. The data needs a lot more analysis but the peak was around the Easter weekend. Geoff Little confirmed that, as yet, the Council doesn’t have a detailed analysis of the data, for example we don’t have analysis on BAME. Dr Jeff Schryer, told us that there has been a tailor off of the deaths in the last weeks but from the data across the world we know that we can’t afford to become complacent. We also don’t know when a vaccine will be ready and how long will take to vaccinate everyone in the country.
Julie Gonda told us that we have a tremendous number of volunteers in Bury and that the Council’s success story has been the creation of 5 community hubs. You can find out more about the community hubs here
Bury’s Response and Objectives:
Bury has been ahead of the national response. Social Care and Care Homes were on the frontline, but bulletins and updates were provided regularly to care homes, GP practices were linked to care homes and also mental health support was offered for care staff.
PPE was a huge issue in the early dates but Bury Council had a coordinated approach and managed to coordinate this well together with the testing. Julie Gonda confirmed that the Council is now testing workforce in care homes (local Care Organisation) and this exercise will continue and will be carried out in phasing to make sure that the workforce and patients are safe.
Geoff Little told us that, as the response continues, the Council’s efforts are now focussed on the sustain and recovery phases. These two phases will merge and overlap depending on circumstances.
Sustain Phase: A more flattened out peak of activity will require a sustaining of
services phase before a full recovery phase. The phase will also require flexibility of
services to react to peaks and troughs of COVID activity.
Recovery Phase: Longer term recovery will face its own challenges and may also
involve a pre-recovery or emerging phase as the system moves out of the COVID-19
lifecycle. Key challenge in this phase will to be understand what the ‘new normal’ will look like
Julie Gonda told us that in Bury we have learnt lessons and we want to embed the excellent model that has been put forward and carry on the positive and good aspects in the future. Social care services and private care services have worked together and this coordination has been very positive. Geoff Little added that the creation of 5 community hubs and the coordination of over 200 volunteers is a good model for a recovery program. The Council wishes to continue to deliver to the most vulnerable food, medicines and human contact to fight isolation.
The Council must not lose sight of its original system intentions and ambition contained within the draft Bury 2030 Strategy. However, this emergency can be used as a way of enhancing the positive
changes to the system, building upon the co-ordinated system approach and becoming a more effective and efficient partnership.
Geoff Little confirmed that the Council has started planning now to move forward in the recovery phase.
- Testing contact tracing for at least 12 months (this is mass testing together with contact tracing) this is a national exercise and in Greater Manchester and particular in Bury we are exploring ways to improve contact tracing.
- Recognising that there is a risk for another peak during this time of recovery
- There is also the risk of the after effect, mental health and people who were unable to grieve in the proper way, effect of isolation on elderly and adolescents
- There could be further waves that could increase demand during the winter period
Geoff Little confirmed that the Council is fully aware that we will have to deal with several issues such as inequalities and Increase in poverty (depravation) issues. He said that COID-19 has created “more dependency” and that, for example, at the moment all rough sleepers in “A Bed Every Night” facility have been moved into their own secure and safe accommodation with support and health provision but, he told us “this is not feasible in a long term”. He said that the financial system is very much in the flux and the Council is in the dark for the future.
The issue of PPE will be a problem also in the future when the public will demand for PPE. The Council has purchased PPE for people in care and for people who carry on care roles. The stock is at Castle Leisure Centre, which is also used as a food distribution centre.
In the future the Council wants to
- Improve Mental Health offer in community hubs and
- Capitalise on lessons learnt in social care
- Shield vulnerable people
- Offer support to symptomatic people
- Focus recovering on housing/environment/productivity
Garden City Medical Centre
Dr Saad Al-Dubbaisi, a 59-year-old GP at the Garden City Medical Centre, recently lost his life to coronavirus, Dr Jeff Schryer, told us that Dr Al-Dubbaisi solely handed the Garden City Medical Centre and he was very popular among the community. The CCG has offered support for his staff and patients. His family will manage the practice for 28 days and then there will be two possible decisions:
- Keep the practice and go through a procurement program or
- Disperse the list
Dr Jeff Schryer highlighted that is important for the CCG to talk to patients and staff and to look at financial viability before making a decision and that both outcomes will take some time.