June 2021 weekly updates from Cheshire and Merseyside’s Directors of Public Health

The Cheshire & Merseyside (C&M) Directors of Public Health (DsPH) currently meet for weekly calls. The key messages from June 2021 meetings are as follows:

25th June 2021

  1. Suicide real time surveillance data reporting – Sue Forster, who is working part-time on mental health and wellbeing for the Champs support team, updated DsPH on the latest figures which has sadly shown an increase in suicide in the Merseyside area. Sue is working with local colleagues to improve reporting including a combined police/coroner system. DsPH and colleagues discussed links with suicide and domestic abuse and this is being looked at along with other risk factors such as the impact of COVID-19.  The No More Suicide Strategy will be refreshed this year.
  2. PHE COVID-19 update – Richard Jarvis of PHE North West reported that all areas are seeing rising rates especially in school age children and working adults. All areas are over 100 cases per 100K of the population. Outbreaks are still mostly within schools and hospitality. With this in mind, DsPH will link into the PHE North West work around the strategy through the Summer and into Autumn/Winter and addressing key issues such as Covid safe events, Long Covid pathways and working effectively with educational settings and workplaces.
  3. Flu update – Tricia Spedding from NHSE C&M shared flu uptake figures for last Winter which showed a significant increase in most areas. The North West had the highest number of health care workers vaccinated. There was no increase in the number of pregnant women having a flu jab so there will be a targeted approach to this group going forward. It is anticipated, but not yet confirmed, that the vaccine will be offered to all primary and secondary school pupils and 50-64 year olds, without health conditions, will be vaccinated at the same time as other groups this year. DsPH discussed the capacity challenges in the system to deliver flu and COVID vaccinations and the potential for other models of delivery. DsPH thanked Tricia and the team for the helpful update and all their hard work.
  4. Events – DsPH discussed a common approach to events pre and post 19 July. It was agreed to produce some consistent guidance which can be issued.
  5. Good news and gratitude
    • DsPH thanked all colleagues who have done such a great job engaging communities and encouraging them to get vaccinated and tested. There are lots of examples by community response teams that have made a real difference to important members of our population.
    • Chair, Ian Ashworth, was thanked by colleagues for the papers he shared whilst advocating for vaccine supply.
    • Richard Jarvis, PHE North West, shared that new practitioners have joined who are starting the North West Public Health Practitioner Scheme and public health training. DsPH were pleased to hear new people joining the profession.

11th June 2021

  1. PHE COVID-19 update– Richard Jarvis from PHE North West updated that the cases of the Delta variant are rising quickly and outbreaks are being seen in secondary schools and hospitality venues. Some care homes are also seeing outbreaks but currently no severe illness due to the vaccination. A discussion took place on seeking more vaccine and resources to address communities where uptake is lower.
  2. DHSC “One team” Contact Tracing Programme – Julie Webster gave an update on the work to establish a “one team” approach to handling outbreaks and contact tracing following the award of £3.3m to C&M from DHSC. The aims and objectives outlined in the paper were discussed and it was suggested to hold a workshop(s) to co-produce the system. The vision is to become an effective integrated contact tracing system to reduce transmission of communicable diseases.
  3. Champs Collaborative report– Dawn Leicester shared the latest report from the Collaborative which gives an overview of the collective work carried out in 2020/21. The DsPH thanked everyone across the system who has contributed to these projects and the Champs support team for their hard work on COVID-19 and other public health priorities. Helen Cartwright shared a draft plan for work to be delivered in 2021/22 which will be discussed further at next week’s DsPH planning session.

4th June 2021

  • PHE COVID-19 update– Sam Ghebrehewet of PHE NW reported that Cheshire & Merseyside still had the lowest rates in the North West but cases are rising especially in Cheshire. There have been some outbreaks in schools. A national hospital admissions report is due to be published, however the data indicates that there have not been vaccine failures to date in those who have received two doses.
  • Health protection system– Julie Webster updated that an external provider had been commissioned to carry out stakeholder analysis and interviews on the development of a new health protection system. They will run three workshops with DsPH, health protection leads and environmental health officers plus interviews with other key stakeholders.
  • Marmot Community launch event– The Marmot health inequalities team is currently working on a review of system assets in C&M and Sir Michael Marmot will join a virtual event on 7thJuly to launch this work. Cllr Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West & Chester Council will chair the event and local academics have also been invited to speak. Registration for the event will open shortly.
  • Good news and gratitude – The DsPH shared good news and gratitude:
    • The DsPH expressed their thanks to communications colleagues in the Champs support team in respect of the ‘Spread the Facts’ campaign case study which was picked up by the national media and has been a phenomenal success. Thanks to Matt Ashton, lead DPH, for his support with the media work.
    • Sue Forster, former DPH at St Helens will be joining the Champs Support Team on 9thJune as a Consultant in Public Health to provide senior strategic leadership to the mental wellbeing and suicide prevention programme of work.
    • The DsPH wished Sophie Pemberton of the Champs Support Team well as she leaves to take on new challenges.