Putting our best foot forward following the successful completion of the Integrated Contact Tracing Pilot

The story so far

Cheshire and Merseyside’s Integrated Contact Tracing Pilot was an ambitious, innovative, and unique collaboration, the ultimate aim of which was to reduce the spread of infectious diseases and ensure the safety of the local population.

The pilot came about thanks to significant funding received from the Department of Health and Social Care’s Support for Self-Isolation project, which was originally requested by Cheshire and Merseyside’s Directors of Public Health at the height of the pandemic in 2020.

The aim was to establish a sustainable, responsive, and resilient integrated contact tracing model that uses surveillance and reporting systems to give timely and meaningful indications of cases, clusters, and outbreaks, to respond quickly to effectively address the threats from COVID-19.

Integrated Contact Tracing Pilot

The pilot formally started 4th August 2021 and was due to run to 31st July 2022. Following the end of pandemic restrictions in February 2022, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) asked that all the national pilots complete early (by the end of April).

Significant learning has been captured and will be utilised in other programmes of work. There is much that has been made possible by the work within the pilot which will really help us learn to live safely and fairly with COVID-19 as one of many acute respiratory infections that continue to pose a risk to our health. Many of the pieces of work started through the pilot will continue under the leadership of our Health Protection Leads as they work together to plan for next winter.

An external evaluation of the pilot is now taking place, which will detail the comprehensive achievements of the pilot, however, headline successes include:

  • Vaccine Tracing: Supporting those who have concerns that prevent them taking up their offer of a vaccine. Almost 44,000 citizens contacted through the Liverpool Vaccine Tracing Pilot, which has directly led to more than 2,300 individuals overcoming their initial vaccine hesitancy.
  • Training: 77 colleagues have received the core training course over four cohorts, with the syllabus broadened to include wider health protection content and resulting in a continued professional development plan now being established to preserve our capacity to go again if we had to.
  • Staff retention: almost 100 members of staff secured across nine Local Authorities through to end of July to help local authorities take forward new Health Protection priorities.
  • Support of Self Isolation Pilot: Over 1,000 residents received an offer of support during the pilot, which ran from Feb – April 2022, with many signposted to support offers and 21 residents receiving direct financial support that enabled them to isolate effectively.
  • Case Management System: Creation of five new modules and four utilities that will support Health Protection Priorities as we learn to live safely and fairly with COVID-19.

How we did it

The course of the Pandemic has been a constantly changing environment, with national policy adapting as learned more about the virus, and as the vaccine roll out built up momentum. It was vital that throughout the life-span of this pilot that all our colleagues remained agile, flexible and were able to respond to events as they occurred. They were able to do this admirably and this enable our scope to accommodate changes throughout, a real example of collaboration and flexibility.

Thanks to a well-defined governance framework made up of a Programme Board, Steering Group and Working Groups, we were able together to make best use of the funding, people and potential that the pilot offered us.

This could only have happened thanks to the hard-working, dedicated, and enthusiastic colleagues from across Cheshire and Merseyside who helped inform the development of this pilot and delivered exceptionally high-quality work every single day. This also extends to the contact tracing and health protection workforce in local authorities and within the subregion’s dedicated Contact Tracing Hub (hosted by Wirral Council on behalf of the Directors of Public Health and UKHSA).

What’s next

Significant learning and many tangible assets will provide positive impacts for the health and care system in Cheshire and Merseyside as well as the people who live here. Our Health Protection Leads will carry elements of this work forward as they work together to take a comprehensive approach to planning for winter as we head toward what is likely to be a difficult winter with COVID-19 continuing to pose a threat alongside resurgent seasonal Flu.

A comprehensive communications and behaviour change campaign, originally devised while the pilot was operational, will also be going live towards the end of the year. The aim of this campaign will be to reduce the spread of infectious diseases across a number of audience groups by proving information, guidance and advice to those who need it most. To find out more about this campaign, please contact Ryan McKernan, Communications and Social Marketing Manager for the Champs Support Team, by contacting ryanmckernan@wirral.gov.uk.

Find out more

To be kept up to date with this work as it progresses, keep an eye out for Health Protection Programme updates in future editions of Collaborate. Sign up here: https://champspublichealth.com/newsletters/.