Flu campaign success and Coronavirus - Dave Cunningham, Head of Infection, Protection & Control

Dave Cunningham

It's a great privilege to have the opportunity to provide this week’s leadership message. It’s been a challenging few weeks with the various storms and the coronavirus outbreak. I know it’s never nice to be out in some to the conditions that we have faced recently, let alone doing the job we do, so thank you all for the hard work and dedication you continue to show.

Before I talk about Coronavirus, or COVID-19 as its been named now, I would like to talk about this year’s flu campaign. We launched the seasonal flu campaign on the 30th September with the theme of “Are you safe to care?”.

The campaign has been a resounding success with 75.5% of you having your jab to protect our staff, patients and families. This a big increase on previous years and I would like to say a huge thank you to all of the vaccinators and local teams who helped to support and promote the flu campaign and drive it to the success that it was.

Personally, I think it is important to get your flu jab and would always encourage staff to have it. It's not too late to get yours, there's still a couple of days left in the season. As a guide to the success of this years campaign, we are currently the fourth highest achieving ambulance trust and have overwhelmingly shown the greatest increase on last year. Well done and thank you to all of you who have been involved, we will be organising some feedback sessions soon to learn how we can improve even more for next year.

On to COVID-19, there's been lots of media coverage about this and no doubt you will have seen the news over the weekend and beginning of the week in relation to Italy. Most staff that I have spoken to have had a good knowledge of how to identify a suspect COVID-19 patient and the correct precautions to adopt. This is really encouraging, because I find one of the biggest concerns with Infection, Prevention & Control (IPC) is understanding the risk. A couple of the questions I have been asked this week are “why are we taking these patients into hospital for testing then taking them home?” and “what are we doing about this?”. These are both really good questions which I will address.

Over the last 5-6 weeks there has been lots of work undertaken both within the Trust and Nationally to prepare for COVID-19. On the 31st December the World Health Organisation were informed of a cluster of cases, it was then declared a public health emergency of international concern on the 30th January.

Since mid-January there has been a number of national work groups and multi-disciplinary teams working on various projects to help prepare the NHS to manage this outbreak. The teams have included representatives from all sectors of the NHS, Public Health and NHSEi, working together to protect the healthcare system and public. As an ambulance trust we have been involved in a number of these groups. Some of these groups have been responsible for setting up the initial guidance for ambulance trusts to manage the first suspected cases while the appropriate systems and procedures can be set up to take over. 

There are coronavirus assessment pods set up across the country in Emergency Departments (EDs), Minor Injuries Units (MIUs) and Urgent Treatment Centres (UTCs) to prevent the facilities being overwhelmed or contaminated. Work is being undertaken in all regions to setup community screening systems, to help relieve the pressure on the ambulance trusts and wider NHS. These are up and running in some parts of the country already and due to go live across our region in the next couple of weeks. This is coupled with a dedicated transport service to support any patients that need to be taken to a static site for screening, saving ambulances for emergency work. That’s not to say you won’t go out to any suspected COVID patients, but the systems are being created to minimise the numbers who are required to be conveyed to a hospital by ambulance.

The reason that you are currently being required to convey patients into the hospital for screening then to take them home, is because suspected cases need to be tested and there is currently no community screening set up.

Patients who are generally clinically well, don’t require staying in hospital and they are safe to self-isolate at home. As the community screening system goes live over the coming weeks you will notice a reduction in the need for doing this.

Another question I have been asked is in relation to staff with holiday planned to the affected countries, and what precautions they should take. There is advice and guidance available through Public Health England (PHE) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

There is now a dedicated section on East24 for COVID-19 where you will find latest information. Some of the recent guidance documents are:

We are currently producing an FAQ document which will be added to EAST24 and NeedtoKnow. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you found it useful, if you have any queries regarding COVID-19 please send them to ipcadministrator@eastamb.nhs.uk.



Published 27th February 2020

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