Although infection rates remain high, the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been, for most people, a milder illness than previous versions. As the Government prepares to remove or lessen restrictions, here at ELFT, we are not letting our guard down. All patients admitted into any of our units are being tested for COVID and staff are being asked to do twice weekly self-tests to reduce the risk of passing the virus onto patients and colleagues. This is in addition to continuing to wear masks in the work place, other personal protective equipment (PPE) as needed, and as always, to wash or sanitise their hands after patient contact.
We are hopefully moving to a position where as a country, we learn to live with COVID whilst supporting people who are clinical extremely vulnerable.
The Government’s change of approach to mandatory vaccination has been a difficult and divisive experience for many staff and managers. The Government’s original stance meant that some staff had to contemplate leaving and finding different work or have the vaccine despite their reservations. It prompted managers and staff to have upsetting and difficult conversations. It will take a while for many to recover from this unprecedented situation, and for goodwill and trust to be restored.
The position of senior health leaders at the Department of Health and Social Care is unchanged. They have written to all trusts to say that staff have a professional responsibility to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection to patients and that the public reasonably expect this of those who care for them or their vulnerable relatives. Over 10 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been given worldwide. They are safe and effective and provide a very high degree of protection from serious disease.
Tackling Low Vaccine Uptake in People With SMI
A special project group has been set up to support service users in North East London (NEL) with a severe mental illness (SMI) to access the COVID vaccine. Currently, people with SMI have one of the lowest uptakes of the COVID vaccine with North East London having one of the lowest rates in the country. We will shortly be extending this project scope to people with a SMI in Luton and Bedfordshire, where the uptake of vaccination is higher.
Inpatient services have been providing vaccination and our community mental health teams will shortly be able to offer the vaccine at their premises, with a different approach for people with a mental health diagnosis being managed in primary care.
People with SMI often have other health conditions and a shorter life expectancy than the general public, dying on average 20 years earlier. So it is crucial that they are supported to prevent avoidable illness and combat risks. Staff who work in a mental health care setting are being asked to speak to every service user they see about their vaccination status.
Tower Hamlets Vaccine Buddies and Champions
In Tower Hamlets, the People Participation service are trying a different approach by establishing a team of Vaccination Champions and Buddies to promote the COVID vaccine to people with mental health issues and learning disabilities. Robert Hunter, one of the Vaccinator Buddies, says "Some people might just need a little extra support to book their appointment or may appreciate someone going along with them to a walk-in vaccination centre." Anyone using secondary adult mental health or learning disabilities services in Tower Hamlets can contact the team by emailing: email@example.com
Vaccines for 12-15 Year Cohort
Over the Spring many of the large vaccination centres were open for walk-in and booked appointments in addition to some of the pharmacies who already offer a wider timescale.
Vaccines for 5-11 Year Cohort
COVID-19 vaccinations have started for 5-11 year olds who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV), or live in a household with a CEV person.
Spring COVID boosters are to be offered to people aged 75 and over, and vulnerable groups.