By Terry Whalley, Strategic Lead, Integrated Contact Tracing Programme, Champs Public Health Collaborative
I hope everyone reading this has had the opportunity to take a well-deserved break during the summer. As we approach the end of the summer season our thoughts turn to autumn, and in these current times that inevitably means a large amount of thinking and planning for not only what COVID-19 may bring, but the fact that this year we’re likely to see a resurgence of seasonal flu, norovirus, and other acute respiratory illnesses.
There is no doubt that we in Cheshire and Merseyside are among the better placed regions in terms of our collaborative response to COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, from our mutual aid ensuring personal protective equipment (PPE) is available where and when needed, to establishing effective COVID-19 testing infrastructure, including the nationally supported innovative mass testing programme in Liverpool and the subsequent “SMART” (Systematic, Meaningful, Asymptomatic, Repeated Testing) and the Event Research Programme.
In addition, colleagues collaborated to establish our Cheshire and Merseyside Contact Tracing Hub which has complemented the Locally Supported Tracing Services in each of our nine local authority regions and the National Contact Tracing and Advice System.
The amazing work done by all our colleagues in contact tracing and the wider COVID-19 response has again been recognised by national colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), who have awarded Champs Public Health Collaborative a significant amount of funding to support development of an integrated contact tracing capability, one that can better cope with whatever COVID-19 may throw our way as we head toward winter. Whether that be additional variants of concern, vaccine evading mutations, higher transmission rates or indeed lower prevalence, we want to be assured that our systems will be able to cope with whatever comes.
I think this will be best achieved through building on the amazing work done to date to bring more consistency to the way we work, establishing pathways and systems that balance the benefits of local contact with resilience of a Cheshire and Merseyside capability that can flex and provide mutual aid and additional capacity when needed for as long as needed.
We want to provide further training and support to our highly valued contact tracing workforce, including some of the softer skills like handling difficult conversations. We also want improve support for those they’re contacting and asking to isolate to protect lives and livelihoods.
To ensure we hear from as many people as possible about what is working well and what perhaps could be improved, we will be holding two virtual workshops in September to ask all those involved in contact tracing to share their thoughts. This will help us to consider what good looks like, and design solutions that will enable this to be achieved through further collaboration. You can register for the workshops online here.
This programme will run for many months, continuously improving the way we deliver contact tracing services for the benefit of all those who live in Cheshire and Merseyside, helping us to protect lives and livelihoods whatever happens next with COVID-19.
Watch this space for future updates through the autumn and winter, and in the meantime, if you’d like to know more please do drop me an email via firstname.lastname@example.org or direct message me on Twitter @TerryWhalley.