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Keeping communities safe through winter

Implementation of our plan to be ready for the challenges of a COVID-19 second wave coupled with the normal anticipated winter pressures on the healthcare system is now at an advanced stage.

Since August, providers have followed a consistent NHS England framework for full restoration and recovery of clinical services. This set of requirements is designed to support trusts as they accelerate the national return to near-normal levels of non-COVID-19 services; prepare for winter pressures and remain vigilant for further local or national coronavirus spikes.

The national plans urge providers to take account of lessons learned during the first COVID-19 peak, embedding beneficial changes for the longer term and tackling specific challenges around supporting colleagues and addressing inequalities.

Nurses and patient at Anne Marie Howes

The principal challenge to restoring services continues to be workforce availability, including sickness absence and recruitment.

The key objectives of our plan are to:

  • enable delivery of our three service priorities:
         a. support the pandemic system response, care for COVID-19 patients and support ‘long COVID’ pathways;
         b.keep our patients safe through winter and maintain unplanned non-coronavirus care;
         c.continue to provide planned care and address backlogs for as long as possible;
  • ensure our services are consistently COVID-secure;
  • support colleagues to maintain their health and wellbeing through winter and wave two;
  • build inclusion and equality into all we do as we respond to winter and wave two of the pandemic.


Key aspects of winter preparedness include:

• ongoing management of outbreaks, particularly across Birmingham, with a dedicated testing team;

• ensuring PPE is available to all settings;

• providing appropriate bed and home-based capacity with particular focus on supporting acute partners;

• continue to focus on maintaining medically fit for discharge inpatients at low levels and cared for in the best setting;


At the start of November:
 

  • we had 95 clinical services operating, with overall activity at 84 per cent of Sept 2019 levels;
  • the majority of redeployed colleagues had returned to their normal duties; 
  • remote consultations were being offered to patients, where appropriate, with an average of over 1,000 consultations per week;
  • COVID-19 risk assessments had been completed for 99.9 per cent of colleagues and actions taken to act upon these where necessary;
  • over 320 COVID-secure risk assessments had been completed across the BCHC estate, with fundamental changes made to estate configuration and layout where required.

The impact of maintaining our non-COVID service recovery while preparing for winter means approximately 320 additional roles that were not required before the pandemic had been identified. Alongside all the above, supporting the safety, health and wellbeing of our colleagues remains a top priority, underpinned by best practice with regard to infection prevention and control. And we are heavily promoting this year’s flu vaccination programme - it is more important than ever this winter that we protect ourselves and our patients.

 

Other new support for colleagues includes:

  • a ‘fast responders’ programme to engage corporate colleagues in supporting new services;
  • accelerating external recruitment drive for healthcare assistants, ward clerks and family liaison officers on inpatient wards;
  • enhancing the bank though a focussed recruitment approach over the last few months;
  • contacting ex-colleagues to see if they are able to return to support the work of the Trust;
  • refreshing the range of flexibilities that we developed through Wave 1. For example, we have extended the extra leave available to help those with caring responsibilities, including for children or older relatives;
  • planning a range of practical help to maintain personal wellbeing. This will include advice on how to look after ourselves, links to resources and groups who can provide support and more specialist support for those who need it.
  • developing as many routes as possible for colleagues to feed their experiences back – existing channels include our Freedom to Speak Up Champions and Guardians and union representatives.
  • reaffirming our commitment to become a truly inclusive organisation as we respond to Wave 2, mindful that Wave 1 affected black and minority ethnic communities disproportionately and threw the wider impact of discrimination and disadvantage in our society into sharp relief.

 

Chief operating officer Chris Holt said:

“Since our initial recovery plan was presented in July, colleagues across BCHC have continued to demonstrate incredible commitment and dedication in responding to the pandemic and restoring services.

“While significant progress has been made, recent increases in COVID-19 cases highlight the need for BCHC to be ready to support the needs of the local healthcare system.

"Keeping services going for non-COVID patients, while playing our part in the system response to COVID-19 will be more complex than in Wave 1 but it is the right thing to do. This plan will support our efforts to do this.”