The Covid-19 crisis is now in its worst stage yet. The Mayor of London has declared a major incident, in light of the massive pressure on health services in London (and the rest of the country). I wanted to update you with a short newsletter on the local and London situation, to support the vaccination programme which offers us our best hope for the future, and to remind you of some of the places to get help and advice this winter.
The situation is changing very rapidly but it is now clear that the mid-winter surge of Covid-19 cases is hitting us harder than in spring 2020 and there is a very real risk of overwhelming the NHS. Incredibly, £22 billion has been spent on a ‘test and trace’ system which has not worked effectively, but which would have made managing the spread of Covid-19 much easier over the summer and autumn. But now we are deep into a second wave. The number of people admitted to hospital lags some way behind any change in the number of infections, so even if the latest restrictions start reducing transmission, pressure on the health service will remain high for some time.
Imperial NHS Trust, including St Mary’s were, as of the Wednesday 13, caring for 424 patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 on their current admission to hospital. 96 of these patients are being cared for in critical care, 70 of whom are on a ventilator. More beds will open at Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals as soon as staffing is in place. They have a total of 182 patients in critical care (including 21 acute respiratory unit beds). Their plans are part of wider surge plans for the north west London integrated care system and continue to evolve to reflect the mix of patients and the wider sector situation.
- A city-wide major incident for London has been declared. Infection rates continue to rise unsustainably. With infections rising, more people are becoming unwell, which is putting enormous strain on public services across London.
- All healthcare and response agencies are under intense pressure. The declaration of a major incident enables these organisations to work even more closely to help keep London safe.
- The ask for Londoners is clear. All must stay at home to help get the virus back under control.
- If we don’t – our services will be overwhelmed, infection rates will continue to rise and more Londoners will lose their lives.
- NHS capacity remains critical across the city. The best way to protect the NHS, and save lives, is by only leaving home for essential supplies, to travel to work if you cannot do so from home, and to seek medical help if you need it.
- Urgent healthcare services for non-Covid health issues are available, GPs are providing more appointments, including evenings and weekends, for patients with urgent health needs. Contact your practice, or check their website, and they will tell you how to arrange same-day appointments if you need urgent care. You can also contact 111, day or night, for other urgent health advice – including if you have concerns about your Covid-19 symptoms. Please remember that 999 and A&E are for emergencies
|GET TESTED: Testing is the most effective way to control the spread of coronavirus and break the chain of transmission. Westminster is now offering two types of testing:
- For people who have symptoms of coronavirus (a new persistent cough, high temperature or a loss or change in sense of smell or taste)
- For people who are not showing any symptoms and need to go to work because they cannot work from home (this is known as asymptomatic or symptom-free testing)
If you can’t work from home, or if others in your household still go out for work, you can get free and regular testing for coronavirus, even if you haven’t got symptoms. The more of us that get tested, the more we’ll be able to stop the spread of the virus, and the faster we can get back to the lives we love.
Please see the map below for testing site locations and click here for more information on getting a test
Getting behind the vaccination programme
We are incredibly fortunate that the vaccines have been developed and tested quickly enough to give us protection for the vulnerable and hope for a way out of restrictions in the coming months.
Already close to two million people have had the vaccine safely. Most of us are only too keen to get on with it.
Others, however are anxious, or have heard misleading or downright wrong stories about it. We need to do all we can to spread the message that vaccination is safe and having it when offered not only protects you but helps protect others – the more people take it up, the quicker we can safely enjoy an easing of lockdown restrictions.
BME Health Forum
My lovely colleague Lina writes about having the Pfizer vaccine: “I had the vaccine on Friday at Lords cricket ground. It was very simple. In a few seconds we were vaccinated and it was painless. There are common sideffects like swelling of the arm, but all very worth it.”
Here’s what’s happening locally:
• By 31 January 2021 North West London NHS will have offered a first vaccine to all those in priority group 1
– residents in a care homes for older adults and their carers (our 58 largest care homes will all have been vaccinated by 18 January)
• By 14 February 2021 they will have additionally offered a first vaccine to all those in priority groups 2-4:
– all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
– all those 75 years of age and over
– all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
- Primary care vaccination centres
- Organised by groups of primary care networks
- There are 21 centres across NW London
- At full capacity each will vaccinate 2000 people a week
- Roving vaccination teams
- Working with primary care vaccination centres, teams are visiting care homes, the housebound and other settings to vaccinate those who are unable to come to a vaccination centre
- Large vaccination hubs
- These hubs are set up to provide fast throughput and vaccinate large numbers of residents
- There is a minimum of one hub per borough
- The first will open in Wembley on 18th January, with the remainder being opened in quick succession in February and March
- These centres will vaccinate between 7,000 and 35,000 per week when operating at full capacity
- Community pharmacies
- We are working with NHS London and community pharmacy providers to develop a model for vaccine delivery through pharmacies, focussing initially on areas where we have less geographical coverage from primary care centres and the larger hubs
- Hospital vaccination clinics
- All of our NHS providers have established vaccination clinics
- These clinics are vaccinating NHS staff, social care and home care staff, other health and care staff who work for private providers, charities etc
Key messages on vaccination from the London NHS
We are working to vaccinate everyone in the first priority group (those over 80 and at high risk) as quickly as possible. This will take time but we are committed to getting all people in this group by the end of February 2021.
We know it can be frustrating to see some people being offered the vaccine when you have not yet heard about your own; we are opening all our vaccination sites as quickly as possible and we will get to you soon.
We will also to start vaccinate those over 75 from early February, but again this will take time to get to everyone, please bear with us.
The NHS will contact you when we are able to offer you an appointment, this will either be a letter or phone call from your GP.
If you miss the phone call please don’t worry, we will call again or send you a letter.
Please don’t contact your doctor or the NHS asking about vaccination; this is not a service that you are able to book in advance. The NHS will contact you when your turn comes in the months ahead. If you are contacted, please do attend the appointment.
We would encourage those over 80 and in the government’s priority list to be ready to accept their invite when called by their GP, reading the covid19 vaccination guide for adults leaflet is a good way to prepare – you can find this leaflet here
Please also be aware some people may receive two invites. If this happens, please pick the site you would prefer to go for your vaccination and follow the booking-in advice provided. You can ignore the second invite.
Travelling to and from a vaccination site is essential travel, but please remember to wear a face mask when visiting and adhere to social distancing measures.
- You can also hear local GP Genevieve Small talk about her experience of having the vaccine.
- It is vitally important that we all continue to follow the national public health guidance: wash your hands regularly, wear a face covering in enclosed spaces and maintain safe social distancing. Covid-19 is still very prevalent and highly infectious: the risk of catching it is the same as ever for people who have not been vaccinated.
We are also aware of several reports of people being contacted by fraudsters offering the Covid19 vaccine. The reports show text messages being sent providing a link for people to register their details to apply for the vaccine, some of which require payment.
These text messages and links are not sent from, or linked to, the NHS.
The NHS will:
· NEVER ask you to press a button on your keypad or send a text asking you to confirm you want the vaccine
· NEVER ask for payment for the vaccine or for your bank details.
If you receive a text message from an unfamiliar number:
· Do not respond to it or click on any links
· Do not enter any personal or log on details
· Do not make any payment
The NW London website is the best place to keep an eye on update information
The NHS COVID-19 Vaccination Programme :: North West London Clinical Commissioning Groups (nwlondonccgs.nhs.uk)
Don’t wait – ask for help
This has been an incredibly hard year for so many people. Those most vulnerable to Covid have often had to shield at home alone. Families are struggling with children out of school, often with very limited space and limited resources for home learning. Thousands of people have lost jobs, incomes and businesses, or fear losing them in the future. Many are grappling with debt, arrears, noise and neighbour issues worsened by being stuck at home and pressures on mental health.
Along with my colleagues I am constantly pressing for more help for those excluded from government schemes, for improvements to the social security safety net, better and earlier communication.
In the meantime, my staff and I will do all we can to support people in need, and encourage you to take up the help and advice that is available.
Here are some of the ways to get help:
From the council:
In the first instance if you need help or you know of anyone who needs help as a result of COVID-19 phone us on 020 7641 1222 (9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are concerned about an adult who you think requires social care and support, or you have a safeguarding concern, please phone 020 7641 1444 or 020 7641 1175 or email email@example.com
If you are concerned about a child and you have a safeguarding concern, please phone 0207 641 4000 or email AccesstoChildrensServices@westminster.gov.uk
The council has launched an automated text and call service to check in on vulnerable residents. All those who were formerly shielding will receive monthly calls to check whether they need any additional support. If they select yes, an officer will call them back to discuss their needs in person.
If you would prefer not to take an automated call, you can always call Westminster Connects directly on 020 7641 1222 (9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday).
Here is a map of local and community-led organisations that are able to provide support services during this time.
For money advice:
For emergency assistance:
If you are employed or self-employed but must self-isolate because of Covid:
For housing issues:
If you are suffering from domestic abuse.
Call the Angelou support service on 0208 741 7008 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm). Translators are available.
During lockdown you can leave your home to seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse).
Acas is responsible for making working lives better, helping employees with their rights, and employers manage through difficult times. They can be contacted for general employment advice here: https://www.acas.org.uk/contact
Help available in Westminster FUEL POVERTY
And in other local news:
NHG Survey 2019/20
As some residents will be aware, I conducted a survey of Genesis residents in 2015. Since then (as I’m sure nearly all residents are aware) Genesis Housing Association merged with Notting Hill Housing. My office heard from tenants and leaseholders of both housing associations at the time of the merger with concerns regarding potential changes that may impact them negatively. This survey was an opportunity to evaluate whether former Genesis residents had a different view when compared with the 2015 feedback and also to see how former Notting Hill residents have found the service since the merger.
The key areas for improvement identified from the previous survey included; communication, ensuring service charge bills are accurate, and stopping the selling of homes to the open market (thus reducing the amount of accommodation available for things like transfers). These are some of the key areas that residents were dissatisfied with. Some recurring specific examples included frustration at the difficulty of getting hold of relevant teams when calling the Contact Centre, or mistakes with people’s service charge bills.
LINK to SURVEY: 2019/20’s survey has identified some similarities in that regard, as a significant number of responses that did express dissatisfaction with the service suggested that some residents are still not happy with NHG’s communication. The most common complaints in this survey consisted of issues regarding poor quality of repairs, lack of the repairs being completed in a timely manner, and poor communication with residents.
I hope this survey highlights the importance and value of these residents and their concerns, as NHG have an obligation to provide and maintain safe housing for their residents. Even though I have since taken up many of these complaints from residents in my constituency, the volume of issues raised suggests a failing of the very people NHG should be the most committed to.
In December 2020 I met with NHG to discuss the implications of the findings in this report which they accept. The purpose of this and previous surveys has always been to call for positive changes. I was encouraged by my meeting with NHG last month. Through working with them in recent years I have seen some genuine commitments to improve, like the ceasing of sell off of general needs stock (a major concern in the 2015 survey). NHG have been looking at customer feedback since my research was concluded in Spring 2020 and believe the trend is positive. They assure me they are committed to addressing the concerns in this report. Their response to this report is included at the end in a separate section. I am very pleased NHG are committed to continued improvement but of course the true litmus test for me will be the impression of you, the residents.
As well as the general support and advice listed above in this newsletter, some specific assistance is available to NHG residents with things like rent and energy bills, please refer to their support here.
The North Paddington Foodbank
The North Paddington Foodbank are an invaluable local service at the best of times. But this year has been one of the hardest in many people’s memories and as people will have seen, the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was felt almost immediately. In the last two weeks of March 2020 there was an 81% increase in demand and, quite alarmingly, a 122% increase in the number of children receiving food through Trussell Trust foodbanks.
Since then we’ve seen the government forced to U-turn on the provision of free school meals and the nation has faced two further national lockdowns. NPFB have launched their 2019-20 annual report which goes into more detail about their vital work helping families with children, young single people, people with disabilities and older citizens alike who have found themselves struggling in a way very few expected. North Paddington Foodbank has stepped up. And it has done something at least important as the provision of food and vital supplies. That is, it has been on the side of people at a time of crisis. The team recognise the crucial importance of treating people with dignity and respect when they need it most- and that is something that is fed back to me time and time again. People may find the report interesting if you are able to donate towards this brilliant cause, the link is here: https://www.npfoodbank.org.uk/#donate
Thank you for reading and your comments are always welcome
Karen Buck MP