Scotland Covid-19, Health and social care

Covid-19: June Already?

Image by Queven from Pixabay

Kim Fellows outlines how Scotland is moving into Phase 1 of exit from lockdown and the partnership approach taken by Scottish government to achieve its goals. 

This week councils across Scotland opened recycling centres in a managed and controlled way as we entered Phase 1 of exit from lockdown, in many places queues for these facilities snaked up and down urban streets. Such was the demand that a police presence was required in some areas to control traffic. Even bigger queues formed when fast food outlets and certain large blue warehouses opened in England, people have interesting priorities.

Following the publication of the Scottish Government’s lockdown exit strategy last week (which was covered in an LGIU blog here), the testing, tracing and isolate programme (TTP) started to be implemented across the country. Known in Scotland as the “test and protect” program this has so far been piloted in 3 health boards and has a capacity for 15,000 test per day and 700 contact tracers are in place with that capacity to be expanded in the coming weeks.

A recent paper from REHIS exemplifies the partnership approach taken in Scotland. By utilising existing, highly trained local government staff NHS boards are collaborating with councils and specifically Environmental Health Officers to increase the capacity to respond to deliver Covid-19 contact tracing.

Environment health officers are experienced and trained professionals who are used to contact tracing for infections, and know-how to speak to people at risk, they can conduct careful risk assessments and support delivery of the TTP.  In addition to these staff, the existing digital infrastructure that exists is being further enhanced by Public Health Scotland and improved to work efficiently as possible.

From the start of lockdown it has been clear that every part of the public sector in Scotland has played its part in working to support communities. The local government workforce has proven to be flexible and essential in delivering those key services. Local politicians and officers continue to work to get schools ready for reopening and to negotiate with Scottish Government to ensure the workforce gets the right support and protection.

Despite the continued importance of local government in this crisis, funding continues to be a key concern for many on the front line. Although the Test and Protect program remains in the early stages of implementation, there have been reports of concerns from some councils that capacity does not yet cover the more remote communities they have responsibility for despite assurances that rural areas would be prioritised for home testing kits. It is vitally important local government is properly funded to deliver these services now and the remainder of the financial year; this issue about funding pressures has been raised again this week in the Scottish Parliament and debate by the local government and communities committee.

The situation in Scotland will continue to be closely monitored with the First Minister making it clear that new laws or a tightening of rules may come into force if people did not follow the guidance. Scottish Government has identified the need for additional scientific analysis going forward and as a result, has set up a COVID-19 Advisory Group. The group is made up of public health experts (including representation from Public Health Scotland), clinicians and academics spanning the disciplines of epidemiology, virology, public health, behavioural sciences, global health, medicine and statistical modelling. The advisory group will consider the scientific and technical concepts and processes that are key to understanding the evolving Covid-19 situation and potential impacts in Scotland. This week’s data from NRS continues to show a fall in deaths for the fifth week in a row, not all council or health board areas have been equally affected however FM stated that there should be cautious optimism based on these figures with R number standing between 0.7- 0.9. Scotland’s economic prospects are moving into the spotlight as contractors for transport projects prepare to return to work.

If you would like to know more about what is happening in England you can read Covid-19 the failings of centralisation from our head of briefings Janet Sillett. For my part I loved a recent blog from RSPH – Finally ready for hygiene 2.0, it uses a phrase I often used with colleagues when talking about learning from experience “Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve. The Holy Trinity of Regret.” Hindsight is a wonderful thing but as this RSPH blog makes clear it really is essential we learn and act on lessons from this phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. Chris Ham former CE of the Kings Fund also this week stressed the need for local authorities and local resilience forums to be better engaged at what the DCMO for England has called “a very dangerous moment”.

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