A presentation on the latest situation from the system partners.
The Board was given a presentation updating the data and system-wide developments regarding COVID-19.
Ansaf Azhar, Director for Public Health, gave an update on the data around COVID-19. The case rate in Oxfordshire in the week ending 5 March had dropped by almost 50% to 31.8 per 100,000. However, there had been a small increase to 34.4 in the most recent week. This reflected the national picture of a plateauing of case rates.
In further analysis of the figures, a drop of 50% in the case rates among over 60s can be seen in the most recent week. This is likely to be a combination of the lockdown and vaccination. The number in hospital had reduced to 22 from a peak of 327. It should be remembered though, that as people get discharged, it puts more pressure on community and primary care.
In response to questions about future prospects of reducing the case rates, Ansaf Azhar noted that restrictions were about to be eased and this would be the first easing since the much more transmissible UK variant became dominant. It was vital to continue to push case rates down as it also reduced the chances of further mutations.
Sam Foster, Chief Nurse, Oxford University Hospitals (OUH), described how treatments had improved since the first wave, helping to reduce the number of deaths. Thresholds for ventilating were higher, new research had come out and treatments were more advanced.
Diane Hedges, Deputy Chief Executive, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG), described how some practice had to change during the peaks in the pandemic, for example the use of a hotel to facilitate hospital discharge. If there were further surges, then these approaches might need to be used again. Strong partnership working was essential in providing the resources needed across the system.
Staffing levels were now returning to normal levels. Cancer and urgent cases were being prioritised. The numbers waiting over 52 weeks for care were up. However, the signs were that the worst was past.
Sam Foster added that there was a focus now on the recovery of staff and the needs of people whose treatment was postponed. She echoed the comments on integrated working across the partners to reduce length of hospital stay. She was pleased to say that visiting was going to be allowed again at OUH from the following Monday.
Dr Michelle Brennan, GP at the Hart Surgery in Henley, gave a presentation on the progress of the vaccination programme. In Oxfordshire over 275,000 vaccinations had been delivered. All care homes had been visited and all frontline health and social care staff had been offered the vaccine.
There was an outreach programme to include groups that were often hard to reach such as the homeless and those not registered with GPs. She noted the news that vaccine supplies would be reduced for the following four weeks but stated that all people in priority groups 1 to 9 were still being encouraged to come forward for the vaccine.
Ansaf Azhar added that the number of cases of blood clots among those who had received the AstraZenica vaccine was lower than amongst the general population. The MHRA and WHO had confirmed that the vaccine is the best way to reduce risk of serious ill health or death from the virus.
Asked if there had been an increase in questions about the vaccines following the EU concerns surrounding the AstraZenica vaccine, Dr Brennan responded that there hadn’t been many questions asked at her most recent surgery. More elderly people were very pleased to get the vaccine and for many of them it had been their first trip out in a year.
Dr Kiren Collison, Clinical Chair, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, emphasised that people did not have a choice of vaccine when they presented for vaccination. They were all effective vaccines. She noted that many of the outreach methods could be used in the future for other conditions to help reduce health inequalities.
Asked if any special efforts were being made to support those with learning difficulties or mental health issues to get the vaccine, Dr Brennan responded that calls were being made to reassure people, those who had issues with long queues were being invited to smaller vaccination sessions and local taxi drivers were being very helpful.
The item was concluded with an NHS video addressing myths circulating about the vaccines.