For the Committee to receive an update from Adult Social Care Services on COVID-19, to enable the Committee to monitor the ongoing pandemic and scrutinise the ongoing response to COVID-19.
The Director of Public Health for Public Health Dorset introduced the progress report on Public Health and Adult Social Care Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The main points raised during the Public Health section of the presentation were as follows:
· Infection rates remain low in the BCP Council area which was not dissimilar to other Councils in the South West of England and was lower than the national average for England.
· Up to 15 May, there were no people admitted or in hospital with Covid and the regional infection rate was 9.4 per 100k of the population.
· There was no observed increase in local infections since the opening up of Step 2 of the Government’s roadmap.
· Observations would be ongoing as to whether the further unlock under Step 3 from the 17 May would lead to local increases in cases.
· The B1.617.2 variant was designated as a variant causing concern nationally and there were rising cases across many Councils, primarily due to community transmission. This variant was currently not a local issue with the South West seeing only low case numbers. Almost all of the cases were connected to recent travel.
· The vaccination rollout was progressing extremely well across BCP and Dorset and 82% of 40-49 years having received their first dose, 43% of 30-39 year olds having received their first dose and 277,000 people in total having received both doses.
· The vaccine progress and the low case rates were not cause for complacency and the Committee heard that there was still a very fine balance between the opening up of the economy, tourism and travel industries and the concern around the spread of new variants.
· There had been a revised local outbreak management plan published in March and the priorities that were set for continuing to live with Covid-19 were clear.
· These priorities included a rapid response to outbreaks, the mobilisation of rapid community testing with a focus on the more vulnerable, close working with the Test and Trace system to identify contacts, enhanced surveillance to inform rapid suppression of cases, vaccine coverage assurance and an inequalities plan with funding to work to close the gap in uptake and finally a planning surge for testing of variants of concern.
· Maintaining the confidence in public adherence toward social distancing and hygiene measures was still a key issue and the cuddle with caution was highlighted as a possible area for concern depending on how it was interpreted by the public.
· Another key issue was the vigilance for any spread of the B.1.617.2 variant in the BCP population.
· The continuation of the vaccination offer and its prospective uptake was also a key issue.
· Further key issues highlighted were the increase in national mobility, the risk of importing infections from higher rate areas, the monitoring of infection rates in the younger population and the deployment of behavioural insights and communications strategy to respond to any signs of increase in cases.
The Director of Adult Social Care Services and the Director of Adult Social Care Commissioning introduced the social care service aspects of the presentation. The main points of the update were as follows:
· The high demand for hospital discharge continued however fewer of these were related to Covid-19 patients.
· There was a reduction in the demand for respite care and would be expected to continue decreasing due to the easing of restrictions on 17 May.
· Safeguarding concerns which had been very high throughout the pandemic were beginning to reduce.
· Mental Health Act assessments remained steadily higher than pre-pandemic levels.
· Day Centres were the only service area that remained closed following the ending of the legal ‘easements’ of statutory services.
· Face-to-face carer support groups were beginning to start back up under Covid-safe conditions.
· There was now a much reduced risk to staff absence due to Covid-19 and overall sickness levels remained very low.
· Carers, people with a mental illness and social care staff continued to experience pressures.
· National funding for the mandated Home First approach to rapid discharge would continued until September 2021 and the Dorset ICS was developing its strategic and operational plans for Home First, which included a financial strategy. This involved reviewing the current intermediate care model and designing a newer, more integrated approach across both the health and social care areas. This saw collaborative work between partners, including the care and voluntary sectors to refine and adapt the existing Home First model to life with Covid and the move back toward business as usual.
· The current care market received a funding grant to support infection control measures and rapid testing, this had been extended to the end of June 2021.
· Additionally, free PPE for the care sector had been extended until March 2022.
· Guidance and advice briefings continued to take place weekly from the Director of Adult Social Cervices and the Director of Public Health.
· A renewed emphasis had been placed on vaccine uptake by all eligible cohorts and the NHS had been working with Local Authorities to promote and encourage vaccine uptake.
· There was only a low number of care homes across the conurbation with positive Covid tests among staff or residents, however the need to remain vigilant was still there.
· National guidance on care home visits changed on 17 May and the increased levels of visits to care homes were matched by supported trips out into the community for residents.
A Member asked a question on Home First and Director for Adult Social Care Commissioning informed members that those individuals who had been admitted to hospital but were residents of neighbouring counties would be given support through the Home First programme.
A question on compulsory vaccinations for Care Home staff was raised and the Committee heard, from the Director for Adult Social Care Commissioning, that there was not currently an obligation among care home staff to be vaccinated, however the consultation on this matter had ended and it was now with the Government for them to give feedback and to outline the next steps on this matter.
There were no further questions and the Chair thanked those that had presented.