This discussion aims to focus on how health partners have sought to protect residents and staff in care homes in the Borough through testing for Covid 19, working closely with the Council.
Dr Lang provided an update on the work carried out by Public Health which covered three main areas: care home testing, testing in schools and Covid-19 BAME issues. Dr Lang expressed her thanks to the support provided by Imperial clinicians that had stepped up to work collaboratively across nine different specialities to help form multi-disciplinary teams which included professors, virologists, senior matrons, paediatricians and epidemiologists. The group had been generous with their time and expertise, for which Dr Lang expressed her thanks.
A rigorous testing regime was established which included repeat testing. The work of the group had solidified and produced considerable guidance in response to a unique situation, with patients being discharged and readmitted to a care home. The generosity of all those involved became an immensely powerful force that had unified around a common purpose to find a solution to an urgent situation.
Describing the work on testing with schools, five H&F primary schools in a national Covid-19 study which Dr Lang regarded as a helpful corollary around increased school attendance. A piece of work to address the concerns around the disproportionate numbers of BAME groups affected by Covid-19. This included work with H&F GPs, smart messaging on YouTube planned on Type 2 diabetes. Dr Lang and colleagues had also met with a local Somalian group and began to engage with faith groups, facilitated with the help of Aysha Esakji (Community Coordinator, Safer Neighbourhood and Registrar services, Housing).
Councillor Lloyd-Harris sought further details about the national school’s study that the five H&F primary schools were participating in.
The selection criteria in choosing the schools to participate included the percentage of BAME pupils. Keith Fernandez (Workforce Development Officer, Children’s Services) had moved quickly to analyse BAME data to identify suitable schools.
Councillor Coleman stated that the Health and Wellbeing Board had set in train several strands of work that targeted the impact of health inequalities on BAME groups and stated that report from Public Health England and its recommendations would be taken forward by the Council. Local work would be undertaken to consider the evidence that would indicate the positive impact of Mutual Aid Groups, H&F CAN and community groups and how this was harnessed to support residents.
Jim Grealy commended the work undertaken on BAME and Covid-19 related concerns and the remarkable support offered by Imperial. The levels of deprivation and poverty experienced by BAME groups in poorer parts of the Borough had been recognised as contributory factors in the high rates of Covid-19 amongst BAME groups and Jim Grealy asked about the kind of work that could be undertaken to alleviate poverty. He also expressed an interest in any advice offered to shielding groups regarding mental health and wellbeing.
Dr Lang concurred that deprivation was a huge factor, coupled with overcrowded housing. The Office for National Statistics had analysed data indicating a link between the lack of outdoor space (garden) and BAME groups. People who lacked access to an outdoor space were more likely to converge outside in public spaces. The impact of a low income on the wider determinants of health was important as it became harder to self-isolate, if for example you lacked outdoor space. Dr Lang referred to the work of Jan Parnell (Assistant Director, Education) and her team in encouraging children to aspire to high profile occupations through careers guidance at school.
Linda Jackson described the extensive work undertaken to support approximately 9000 people who were shielding within the Borough, who currently received varying levels of support. For those that had accepted that they wanted to be helped, a programme of support had been developed between ASC and Children’s Services to help people step back into society. This formed part of an on-going conversation (“Conversation Matters” programme, alluded to earlier by Lisa Redfern) with telephone help, and calls lasting up to 30-40 minutes, email and on-going support which was continuing.
Peer support had been provided by approximately 900 volunteers who had been DBS checked (Disclosure and Barring Service) and accompanied people as they went shopping for the first-time following lockdown restrictions being lifted. Equally, the support can be swiftly reinstated if lockdown restrictions were re-established.
Councillor Coleman reiterated concern about low income or zero hours work and deprivation, and the impact on those who felt forced to use public transport as they returned to work.
Transport for London (TfL) had given assurances that hygiene standards on public transport had been maintained through increased frequency of cleaning and the enforcement of the requirement to wear a mask while travelling on public transport (he acknowledged the inherent difficulties of this) which was essential in protecting vulnerable BAME and low income groups. Mark Jarvis commented that the CCG took the issue of health inequality seriously and the fundamental importance of addressing this, both locally and at NWL level.
Councillor Lloyd-Harris urged the Council to reconsider the need to retain public, open spaces for residents. Councillor Coleman responded that a Parks Commission had recently been established and which would welcome engagement and resident involvement from across the community. A growing misapprehension that a park was available exclusively for one “type” of resident needed to be challenged but it was clear that there was an overlap between good mental health and access to a green space.
ACTION: A letter from the Committee to TfL regarding the enforcement of the requirement to wear a mask when using public transport and to challenge travellers who were not in compliance with the restriction.
That the report was noted.