COVID greatly impacting on East Lothian Council and public services

Councillor Norman Hampshire, Depute Leader, East Lothian Council

Staff absences and other challenges resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are continuing to impact significantly on services, East Lothian Council’s Depute Leader said today.

Councillor Norman Hampshire thanked the public for their ongoing patience and understanding at a time when, despite the move beyond Level 0, the delivery of public services continues to be far from normal.

He said:

“We are, of course, pleased that the easing of restrictions has enabled people to see more of each other and enable businesses and services to open up.

“But I want to be very clear that life has still not returned to pre-pandemic ‘normal’. The success of the vaccination programme is limiting the harm being caused but infection levels remain too high – people continue to catch, and pass on the virus. And people can still become unwell.

“When people are sick, they still need to self-isolate – as do those who are identified as close contacts. While this is the right course of action, the implications are causing huge staffing pressures within the council right now.

“This is being felt in departments across the council – including Facilities Management, which has responsibilities for the cleaning of public buildings and cleaning, catering and janitorial support in schools. Education and Children’s Services, Health and Social Care and Customer Services teams are other areas under real strain – but these are just a few examples. We are also having to take decisions to adjust opening hours of facilities and sometimes at short notice.

“Council employees have carried out heroic work throughout the pandemic, including doing things differently or covering other duties, and we are extremely grateful. And I know that the communities of East Lothian are supportive, and appreciative of, these incredible efforts, at a time when our business continuity plans remain invoked.

“Unfortunately, we have not returned to ‘normality’ and if these challenges persist, we may need to take difficult decisions to temporarily scale down some non-statutory services or the way in which buildings are used, in order to focus on priority activities in a pandemic and maintain our duty of care to employees.

“Whilst this would, of course, be a last resort we need to be upfront about the scale of the current difficulties being faced across the public sector – from healthcare to local authorities.  Our focus must continue to be on maintaining critical services whilst balancing the ongoing requirements of support to test and protect and self-isolation. We are grateful to the public for their patience and kindness towards our staff, who are trying their best despite the difficulties, is very much appreciated. The road to recovery from this pandemic will be long and hard but East Lothian Council, working with our partners, continues to strive to provide the best possible services while supporting efforts to reduce case numbers.”

Testing

Councillor Hampshire also highlighted the importance of regular testing, even if people have no symptoms of COVID-19.

He added:

“I appreciate that, at a time when restrictions have been eased and aspects of life look and feel ‘normal’, people who feel that they are in good health might not see the need to get tested.

“But case numbers are still too high and it’s concerning that almost 1 in 3 people who have COVID-19 don’t have any of the usual symptoms but are potentially passing the virus on to others. Getting tested – even if you feel fine and have received vaccination – means that, if positive, you can take immediate action to stop the spread of the virus, by self-isolating.

“It’s very easy to get tested in East Lothian with the availability of collection points to get tested, locations where you can take a test, or the option of getting a test kit delivered to your home. More information is available at www.eastlothian.gov.uk/testing.”

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YWCA Scotland and SWA launch of a new survey

YWCA Scotland and SWA have announced the launch of a new survey to investigate young women’s perceptions and understanding of domestic abuse and existing support services.

This survey is open to girls and women living in Scotland (aged 12 – 25), until 5th October 2021 and can be accessed here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/youngwomenrise
Please help us spread the word! Feel free to use the images and suggested text attached to promote on social media.

The survey was developed by Young Women Rise, a research and digital campaign group led by 10 young women from across Scotland supported by SWA and YWCA Scotland. This group have come together to research young women’s experiences of unhealthy relationships, domestic abuse and access to support. This survey will gather data on young women’s perceptions, awareness and understanding about domestic abuse, unhealthy relationships and existing support structures.

The data will help Scottish Women’s Aid better understand young women’s experiences and support needs. The survey will be followed by focus groups later this year.

Have your say on East Lothian Council’s Draft Equalities Plan

A consultation has been launched on East Lothian Council’s Draft Equality Plan 2021-2025.

The document has been drafted at a time of unprecedented challenge – locally, nationally and globally – caused by the COVID pandemic.  We know that there is an equality dimension to the pandemic, with women, disabled people and minority ethnic communities particularly affected. 

The Draft Equality Plan for 2021 – 2025 builds on the work of the Equality Plan 2017-2021.  It sets out the Council’s commitment to equality and shows how we comply with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 to:

  • eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct that is prohibited by the Act
  • advance equality of opportunity between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who don’t
  • foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who don’t

The Draft Plan sets out seven high level equality outcomes that the council will work towards during 2021 – 2025 to ensure it meets its statutory duties under the Equality Act and, also to, achieve its overarching commitment to reduce inequalities within and across our communities.

The Draft Equality Plan 2021-2025 is available to download below along with the previous plan and some other background information you might find useful.

The consultation asks respondents to answer a number of questions. The draft plan can be read and responded to on the Council’s Consultation Hub.

An important milestone for healthcare in East Lothian was reached this week as project representatives marked the start of construction work on a refurbishment and extension of The Harbours Medical Practice in Cockenzie

East Lothian Health and Social Care spokesperson Councillor Shamin Akhtar and Jon Turvill, Clinical Director for East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, marked the event on site. They were joined Practice colleagues as well as representatives from NHS Lothian’s Development Partner delivering the project, Hub South East, and contractors Morrison Construction.

The £3.4m project, will see a full refurbishment and 400m2 extension of the Harbours Medical Practice complete in Autumn 2022. This facility will meet the needs of the growing population in the Cockenzie and Port Seton area and the demand for a wider range of services

Construction will be managed to allow the existing practice to remain operational as usual by working in two phases. The first phase will see the completion of a new build extension to the rear of the existing building and once the surgery moves into this new area, the refurbishment of the original building, dating back to 1980, can begin.

Once plans are complete there will be additional Consulting Rooms and Treatment Rooms and the existing building will be refurbished throughout so that clinical services can be delivered in an environment which is appropriate and fit for purpose.

Kenny Campbell, Hub South East’s Development Manager, said: ,

“I’m delighted, after a great deal of work from all partners in the background in the planning and design of this project, that we are now marking the start of construction on the works on site.”

“We have an excellent track record in delivering modern healthcare facilities in the area, having recently completed the award-winning East Lothian Community Hospital, and we look forward to continuing this positive working relationship with both NHS Lothian and the East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership as we make the plans for Harbours Medical Practice, a reality.”

East Lothian Integration Joint Board (IJB) Vice Chair Councillor Shamin Akhtar said:

“It’s great to see work now underway on the extension and refurbishment. I’d like to thank Jane Johnston and the practice, NHS Lothian, the Capital Planning & Projects Team and the Harbours patient participation group for their contribution in getting us here. The Harbours is a thriving and growing practice and the extension and refurbishment reflects the IJB’s commitment to continuing to improve patients’ access to high quality primary care across East Lothian.”

Eddie Robertson, Managing Director of Morrison Construction Building Central, commented:

“Our business has a strong track record in delivering first-class primary care facilities for the NHS throughout Scotland. We are delighted to continue our relationship with NHS Lothian and look forward to creating a high-quality building that enables all the stakeholders to deliver vital services for local people.”

East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership takes action to prepare for winter

In the face of unprecedented levels of demand, East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) has today (Wednesday 1 September) outlined the actions they are taking to ease pressure on staffing and services across the county.

Anticipating the position is likely to worsen over the winter period, East Lothian HSCP shared plans on how it aims to enhance the resilience of services to ensure safe staffing levels and the best care for patients.

Staffing will be consolidated at the East Lothian Community Hospital in Haddington in order to ease the additional pressure caused by high levels of absence due to sickness and the need for staff to self-isolate. Six inpatient beds, and the staff who support them, will temporarily relocate from Edington Cottage Hospital, North Berwick to the East Lothian Community Hospital. The plan also involves the addition of enhanced community health services to be based at the Edington Hospital.

Alison Macdonald, Chief Officer of East Lothian HSCP said “While the decision to relocate the six inpatient beds at Edington Cottage Hospital was very difficult, it has been made to ensure that patient safety is maintained.

“We are approaching what could be one of the most challenging winters on record for the NHS, coupled with the continuing threat posed by the COVID pandemic. This reality is the reason why we must act now, in a planned way, to consolidate staffing and ensure that we can maintain patient safety, continue to deliver quality care and protect the wellbeing of our hard-working staff.”

The relocation of the inpatient beds to East Lothian Community Hospital is temporary and will be reviewed every three months.  We will be continuing to care for the small number of patients currently in the unit and to support them when they are ready to move on to their planned discharge destination. The GP service that is currently based at Edington Cottage Hospital will remain in place.

Included within the plans is an expansion of the Community Treatment and Care (CTAC) teams based at the Edington Cottage Hospital. The team, which is much valued among the local community, will continue to provide essential services, including management of minor injuries, dressing of wounds, removal of sutures, ear syringing and taking blood samples in preparation for chemotherapy. The service, which was previously only available on a limited basis, will now operate five days a week.

Also being introduced is a new physiotherapy service which is likely to be especially beneficial over the winter months, when demand for this type of service always increases. As well as providing specialist rehabilitation for all musculoskeletal conditions, the team are also able to arrange investigations and, if necessary, refer patients for onward secondary care.

In recognition of the continued prevalence of COVID-19 within our communities, a range of drop-in vaccination clinics continue to be located across East Lothian, offering both first and second doses of the vaccine to residents. The latest of these clinics will be available at Edington Hospital.

Ms Macdonald said these measures are part of wider investment in the county’s services to ensure they are prepared to meet the growing challenges faced by hardworking staff.  “We know that people do better in their own homes or in in a homely setting wherever possible so we are also investing in the teams who work to reduce the need for people to be admitted to hospital in the first place, and who help patients leave hospital for their ongoing care when they are ready. “

Ms Macdonald paid tribute to staff who, she said, had been working under immense pressure throughout the pandemic. “We couldn’t do any of this without the dedication of our staff who always put their patients first.  I want to thank them for their ongoing commitment and assure those who are transferring to the East Lothian Community Hospital that we will support them to make that transition as smooth as possible.”

Professor Alex McMahon, NHS Lothian’s Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Healthcare Professionals said “Patient safety is always our number one priority. Whilst we understand the local community may have concerns, it is vital we make best use of our staff’s skills and allow for flexibility and effective bed management at this crucial time. 

 “We anticipate this winter will be an especially challenging time for NHS services, but the public can do so much to help us. We are asking people to remember that the way to access urgent care has changed. If you think you need to access urgent care including A&E, but it’s not life threatening, you should call NHS 24 day or night on 111 first. NHS 24 will direct you to the right care in the right place. 

“It is important too to remember that there is self-care information on NHS Inform, and that local pharmacies, GPs, dental practices or opticians might be the most appropriate route to treatment and care. If it is an emergency always call 999 or go to your local A&E.”