This report provides an overview of the systems and controls that we have in place to keep residents and other members of the public safe.
Ann Ramage, Assistant Director for Regulatory Services provided a presentation, noting that the Council had a statutory duty to receive notifications of infectious diseases (including food poisoning). The Council also had a legal duty to monitor and investigate these cases and take action where necessary. She showed slides that provided an overview of the systems and controls that were in place to keep residents and other members of the public safe.
The Borough’s principle partner in this work is the Health Protection Team (HPT) which was part of Public Health England (PHE). The HPT team consisted of Consultants in Communicable Disease Control (CCDC), consultant nurses, and support staff. The CCDCs were appointed by the Council as Proper Officers for receiving notifications from doctors. In addition, PHE would collate and publish monthly details of notifiable diseases by borough and disease.
Investigations of infectious diseases would be carried out by fully qualified Environment Health Officers (EHOs). These would also include cases of food poisoning and Legionella. The officers had the power to close a business posing risk and exclude people from work if they were a risk to others. They also received regular training from PHE, and participated in desktop emergency exercises. An overview was provided around how infectious disease cases were managed and the cost implications to businesses. Those most at risk were the very old, very young, pregnant women those with compromised immune systems and those already ill.
Graham Morrison, Environmental Health Officer, provided an example of a complex case study that was carried out relating to a previous Salmonella case in the borough - this resulted in 60 customers ill with 20 being hospitalised. Details were provided of how this was managed and the appropriate measures that had been put in place by Council officers.
Councillor Victoria Brocklebank-Fowlerasked how many Environmental Health Officers were employed. Ann Ramage explained that there were currently 4 (FTE) food environment health officers who responded to infectious disease notifications and outbreaks. There was a similar number of health and safety officers who handled notifications of Legionella. In addition, noted that that this was a highly specialised department due to the nature of work involved.
Councillor Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler asked how did the Council’s figures in relation to the number of infectious diseases, compared to other local boroughs. Ann Ramage explained that a total of 155 cases of Gastro Intestinal Diseases were notified to the North-West London Health Protection Team in 2018. The London Borough of Hounslow reported a higher rate in comparison to the Council, whilst Kensington & Chelsea experienced fewer cases of infectious diseases.
The Chair asked for further clarification around why some diseases fell under the Council’s remit. Ann Ramage referring to page 35 of the agenda pack said that there were 31 diseases listed as notifiable. These were catergorised as infectious diseases because they were caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi that could spread, directly or indirectly from one person to another. Furthermore, GP’s had a statutory duty to notify a Proper Officer of the Council of these infectious diseases. The Council was also under legal obligation to then notify PHE about the notifications received and carry out appropriate investigations if necessary.
The Chair queried whether the Council faced challenges due to the transitory nature as a London borough. In response Ann Ramage explained that in most cases people, were co-operative to the instructions set outl. In addition, the Council also worked in collaboration with local schools and hospitals to minimise risks where possible.
That the Committee noted the key importance and potential impact of this work in protecting residents and vistors to the borough.