Dumfries & Galloway Health & Social Care

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COVID forces suspension of procedures and services

A CONTINUING increase in coronavirus cases has seen Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership make difficult decisions to suspend or alter a range of routine services. 

The significant rise in new COVID-19 related admissions to DGRI has prompted moves aimed at creating capacity to deal with the rising demand for health and social care provision – which is now greater than at any point during the first wave of the pandemic.  

The decision has been taken to suspend some non-urgent, non-cancer elective or planned procedures. 

Meanwhile, some community social care services are being suspended, reflecting the dangers posed by a strikingly high rate of the new, highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant which is fuelling the local outbreaks. 

Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership Chief Officer Julie White said: “Decisions to suspend services are never taken lightly, and we have held off as long as it was safely judged to do so before implementing these actions. 

“To be very clear in respect of planned healthcare procedures, this is not a complete suspension. Our goal is to preserve our ability to undertake procedures deemed urgent by our clinical teams and to ensure that patients with cancer continue to receive timely treatment and support.   

“Where possible, however, we are halting non-urgent clinical appointments for outpatients, day surgery and theatres in order to ensure we have the capacity to provide immediate help to those in most need.   

“Patients can be assured that our clinical teams will assess our referrals to ensure that those most in need of urgent care are prioritised.  We will keep these measures under review and will aim to get routine work back up and running as soon as is safe to do so. 

“Although our hospitals are facing pressures around capacity, we are managing this situation – with contingency plans in place to increase capacity as required.” 

Changes are also being implemented which affect GP practices in the region, with many practices focusing again on the provision of urgent care and support to their local patients.  

Again this decision has been made in order that GP teams can support the assessment of patients with suspected COVID-19 in their local communities, although this will be undertaken virtually in most cases. This move will also enable GPs to focus on those patients with other urgent needs and conditions within their local communities, ensuring that admissions to hospital are avoided wherever possible and safe to do so.   

Given the increasing levels of infection across the region, the Health and Social Care Partnership has also taken the decision that all adult respite units, adult day services and Activity and Resource Centres should only provide services to those in critical need at this time. 

Additionally, given the specific concerns in the west of the region in terms of particularly high COVID infection levels, a decision has been made to suspend the ARCs in both Stranraer and Newton Stewart. 

Currently, the advice being promoted by the Scottish Government is that the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to protect ourselves and communities is to stay at home as much as possible. 

Julie White said: “While none of this is what we would want, given all the work that’s been undertaken over many months to safely restore our services following the response to the first wave of COVID, these outcomes are the result of carefully considered decisions aimed firstly at reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and secondly at ensuring that our staffing resource is utilised to support those most in need. 

“Changes are also being implemented in the provision of Care at Home services within the Partnership. Our first consideration will continue to be for the wellbeing and safety of the individuals who receive our care at home services. Currently, however, due to pressures created by the pandemic, we are severely limited in the availability of care to meet needs across the region. We will therefore be working with our care providers, service users and their families to ensure that we provide a safe level of care for individuals whilst asking for flexibility in order for us to facilitate discharges from hospital.   

“The first round of vaccinations have now been completed in each of the region’s 31 older adult care homes. We will continue to work with our local care home providers to optimise the use of these facilities to help meet people’s needs just now on both a permanent and short term basis to respond to the crisis.   

“We very much hope to be able to restore all of our suspended services as soon as the situation allows, and ask everyone, individually, to play their part in helping to speed up that prospect by adhering to the national guidance around COVID – with the message of stay home, save lives.” 

Staff involved in delivery of these services will be contacting people individually to advise them of these developments, and to discuss how people can continue to be supported during this difficult time. 

COVID awareness promoted by Alcohol and Drug Partnership

COVID-19 has presented unique healthcare challenges – but represents a very real challenge to vulnerable groups such as those who have drug and alcohol problems.  

It is estimated that over half of the 60,000 or so people with drug problems in Scotland are over the age of 35 and have multiple co-morbidities, including COPD, making them a vulnerable high-risk group in relation to COVID-19. At the same time, the challenges of lockdown, constraints around face-to-face service delivery as well as social isolation can greatly increase the risk of disengagement from service, relapse, overdose or drug-related death. 

Speaking ahead of International Drug Overdose Awareness Day this Sunday August 31, chair of Dumfries and Galloway Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP) Grahame Clarke said: “People with drug and alcohol problems are among the most vulnerable members of our communities, and among those vulnerable to the effects not just of the coronavirus itself but also the resulting response, including lockdown and the contraction of services.

“As such, it is vitally important that front line staff in contact with people who have drug or alcohol issues or who are providing a service to them understand the impact the pandemic might have on the individual and know where help can be obtained – either from within their own organisation or from other services.  

“With this in mind Dumfries and Galloway Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP) has been running an awareness campaign aimed at the staff and the volunteers who work within Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership. The campaign has highlighted the challenges faced by those with drug and alcohol problems and provided information on how these individuals can be supported on their recovery journey, reducing the risk of harm to them.”

The campaign has featured four key themes which the Drug and Alcohol Partnership feel should also be understood by anyone who knows someone with a drug or alcohol issue during the COVID period.

Mr Clarke said: “COVID has a huge challenge on all of us, but it poses a particular challenge to vulnerable people – including those with drug and alcohol problems.

“Our work recently has been about engaging with those people in health and social care whose work brings them into contact with these vulnerable people and making them aware of what a challenge it is to them, and what they can do to help them overcome these challenges.

“There is no reason why people with drug and alcohol problems cannot continue to access their GP practice, or consult with a specialist drug or alcohol service, as many will have issues and ailments which need to be tended to, and these can continue to be addressed. They shouldn’t be put off or think COVID is more important.

“It’s about encouraging people with alcohol and drug problems not to change their behaviours – don’t try new things, don’t change the amount that you take, don’t take it in new way, don’t try new drugs and don’t mix drugs. These are some of the dangers which exist.

“Isolation as a result of COVID can have a particular impact on people with alcohol and drug difficulties, with less face-to-face contact and less social support. This can have an impact on mental health and how they deal with isolation, and all of that can build and have quite a profound effect on them, and their use of drugs and alcohol.

“In these situations it’s about having discussions, it’s about making them aware of the services which can help them and encouraging them to contact those services and seek help early get as much help as they possibly can.”

A full list of contact details for services within the region which can provide support are available on the Dumfries and Galloway Alcohol and Drug Partnership website https://dghscp.co.uk/alcohol-drugs-partnership-adp/

Grahame said: “My plea is if you have any concern about anyone you know then please do pick up the phone to us or the services, or encourage them to get in touch, because it’s vitally important that we support this vulnerable group at this very challenging time.”

Extension of self-isolation to ten days

ANYONE in Scotland diagnosed with COVID-19 or experiencing symptoms will now have to self-isolate for ten days – an increase from seven.

The announcement has been made by UK’s four Chief Medical Officers, noting evidence that people with COVID-19 have a ‘low but real possibility’ of infectiousness between seven and nine days after the onset of the illness.

Reacting to the development, NHS Dumfries and Galloway Consultant in Public Health Medicine Dr Nigel Calvert said: “Self-isolation plays such an important role in helping to stop the spread of coronavirus, and we’ve seen this first-hand within Dumfries and Galloway,

“We’re so grateful that people do self-isolate, and with this extension from seven days to ten days it’s important we remember that this move is to ensure the full effectiveness of this action, and that self-isolation is an act which protects our friends, our neighbours and our wider communities.”

Chief Medical Officer for Scotland Dr Gregor Smith is a co-signatory on the statement issued today by all four of the UK’s chief medical officers which has introduced and explained the extension of the self-isolation period.

Explaining the 10 day self-isolation period applies for those people who have COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test result, the statement said: “In symptomatic people, COVID-19 is most infectious just before, and for the first few days after symptoms begin. It is very important people with symptoms self-isolate and get a test, which will allow contact tracing.

“Evidence, although still limited, has strengthened and shows that people with COVID who are mildly ill and are recovering have a low but real possibility of infectiousness between 7 and 9 days after illness onset.

“We have considered how best to target interventions to reduce risk to the general population and consider that at this point in the epidemic, with widespread and rapid testing available and considering the relaxation of other measures, it is now the correct balance of risk to extend the self-isolation period from 7 to 10 days for those in the community who have symptoms or a positive test result.

“This will help provide additional protection to others in the community. This is particularly important to protect those who have been shielding and in advance of the autumn and winter when we may see increased community transmission.”

Other signatories to the letter are Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland Dr Michael McBride and Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton.

COVID-19 is highly transmissible, and no one should be blamed for contracting the virus.

Anyone who does experience any of the symptoms (a cold or flu like illness – including a new cough, high temperature, or loss of smell) should self-isolate and book a test through our mobile testing unit which carries out testing daily across the region.

Tests can be booked by visiting the website www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested/ Testing date and locations can be found at the end of this message.

Friday 31st July

MTU1

Langholm – Kilngreen Car Park.

DG13 0JN            

MTU2

Thornhill – Community Centre,

East Back Street. DG3 5LH

Saturday 1st August       

MTU1

Dumfries – DG1 Leisure Centre,

Hoods Loaning, DG1 2HT              

MTU2

Stranraer – Ashwood House.

DG9 7JJ

Sunday 2nd August        

MTU1

Dumfries – DG1 Leisure Centre,

Hoods Loaning, DG1 2HT              

MTU2

Annan – Swimming Pool,

St Johns Rd. DG12 6AQ 

Monday 3rd August       

MTU1

Stranraer – Ashwood House.

DG9 7JJ

MTU2

Moffat – Station Park Car Park,

Beattock Road (A701), Moffat. 

Tuesday 4th August       

MTU1

Annan – Swimming Pool,

St Johns Rd. DG12 6AQ

MTU2 – morning

Dalbeattie (location to be confirmed)

MTU3 – afternoon

Castle Douglas – Market St Car Park.

DG7 1AE

Wednesday 5th August

MTU1

Thornhill – Community Centre,

East Back Street. DG3 5LH           

MTU2

Stranraer – Ashwood House.

DG9 7JJ

Thursday 6th August     

MTU1 – morning

Newton Stewart – Douglas Ewart High School,

Corsbie Rd. DG8 6JQ

MTU2   

Annan – Swimming Pool,

St Johns Rd. DG12 6AQ 

MTU3 – afternoon

Kirkcudbright – (location to be confirmed)

Friday 7th August            

MTU1

Moffat – Station Park Car Park,

Beattock Road (A701), Moffat.

MTU2

Sanquhar  – Fun Pool,

Blackaddie Road. DG4 6DB          

Saturday 8th August

MTU1

Dumfries – DG1 Leisure Centre,

Hoods Loaning. DG1 2HT              

MTU2

Dalry – (location to be confirmed)            

Sunday 9th August                         

MTU1

Lockerbie – McJerrow Car Park,

High Street. DG11 2BJ

In Dumfries and Galloway, the following groups of staff with symptoms of COVID-19 should continue to be tested through one of the NHS testing facilities. This can be organised through Occupational Health (01387 244626) or, for any non-NHS or non-Council staff, through line managers.

  • NHS staff, including independent contractors such as GPs, dentists, optometrists and community pharmacists
  • Social care staff, including care home and care-at-home staff
  • Emergency services, including police, fire and rescue, ambulance, and prison service staff
  • Dumfries and Galloway Council employees

Special thanks to Armed Forces

A special message of thanks is expressed during Armed Forces Week for the contributions made by all personnel.

Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership would particularly like to recognise the support which has been provided during the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic.

Military personnel have been providing ongoing assistance around the planned response to the coronavirus, and staff continue to operate the mobile testing unit which provides daily testing moving around locations right across the region.

Valerie White is Interim Director of Public Health and NHS Dumfries and Galloway’s Armed Forces Champion, and she said: “The Armed Forces have played an important role locally by operating the mobile COVID-19 testing centres across the region and this is an example of the professionalism and quick response we can expect from the Armed Forces in supporting local communities when needed.”

NHS Dumfries and Galloway is one organisation which has made a commitment to support the Armed Forces through a signed agreement, or covenant, having received the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme Silver Award in August 2019.

On the eve of Armed Forces Day, which takes place tomorrow, Saturday, June 27, Health Improvement Officer Richard Smith has recorded a video in which he recognises the role of the Armed Forces…. https://youtu.be/1yJZwPPY0hA

#armedforcesweek @Lowland_RFCA

Staff deployed to care home

A number of residents and staff at Dryfemount Care Home in Lockerbie have tested positive for COVID-19 and a number of staff are in self-isolation. 

Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership have deployed staff to work in Dryfemount to ensure that all the residents continue to receive appropriate support. 

We have worked closely with the managers of the home and the Care Inspectorate to ensure that all residents and staff are supported through this difficult period

Call to help Care at Home workers

A key method to prevent the spread of coronavirus is keeping interaction to a minimum.

As a result, a request is being made to help Care at Home staff carrying out their duties within the region’s communities.

General Manager for Community Health and Social Care in Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership Graham Abrines said: “When a Care at Home worker is due to visit a home, we’d ask that anyone other than the person receiving care creates space for the worker to carry out their duties.

“Other people may live at the same address, and current national guidance permits people to visit another residence if they are providing care to a vulnerable person.

“Aside from this, there should be no other person present within these homes.

“So, if people are present for those reasons we would ask if they could arrange to either be out of the house or in another room when the care at home worker calls.

“This will really help, as it means that the worker is only coming into contact with the person needing support, keeping that interaction to the very minimum.”

People are thanked for all the help they have provided, and are asked to continue to assist Care at Home staff as they carry out essential work during this difficult period.

Dumfries and Galloway well prepared for coronavirus

NHS Dumfries and Galloway is well-prepared for any positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and is asking the public to play their part in protecting themselves and each other.

While all tests in Scotland have so far been negative, Deputy Medical Director Dr Grecy Bell says an outbreak is highly likely based on the spread of infection in other countries.

Dr Bell said: “We have well-developed protocols in place to deal with any such illness, and we are providing support to staff both in hospital settings and in the community, including our GPs across the region.

“However, the public also has an important role to play to prevent the spread of infection. We are sharing national messaging around how people can help protect themselves and others. This includes posters promoting the message ‘Catch It, Bin It Kill It’, which applies equally to the coronavirus as any of the respiratory illnesses we tend to see at this time of year.

NHS Dumfries and Galloway is also adopting the home testing model seen elsewhere in the country to limit any exposure and prevent any spread if cases were to appear.

This means people who are suspected coronavirus cases will be tested in their homes by clinicians who will wear a mask and protective clothing to prevent any possible spread.

Dr Bell said: “Obviously, there’s a lot of interest currently focused on coronavirus, and we’re monitoring the situation closely.

“We are well prepared in Dumfries and Galloway, but we do ask people to follow the self-isolation advice if they’ve visited an affected country, to call rather than visit their GP for advice if they think they have symptoms, and to also follow the basic health precautions they would use to avoid colds and flu, such as regularly washing hands, and catching coughs and sneezes with tissues.”

The latest numbers of test results are published at 2 pm each day on the Scottish Government website. https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-scottish-test-numbers/

Common symptoms of coronavirus include:
• high temperature or fever
• cough
• shortness of breath

Updates on public health advice for coronavirus can be found on the NHS Inform website https://www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus, and a free helpline has been set up for those who do not have symptoms but are looking for general health advice: 0800 028 2816.

For anyone who is planning to travel abroad, guidance can be found on fitfortravel https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/ Where a COVID-19 risk is identified, country pages will be updated.

Open consultation sessions to focus on Short Break Services

A series of consultation meetings is set to take place as part of an independent charity’s review of Short Break Services in Dumfries and Galloway.

Action for Children have announced seven consultation sessions to take place next month as they carry out work to develop options for the service in the region.

The charity have been commissioned by Dumfries and Galloway Integration Joint Board, whose chairman Andy Ferguson said: “After receiving an Independent Review Report on Short Break Services from Action for Children, the Integration Joint Board commissioned the charity to progress with the next stage and carry out an options appraisal.

“The IJB is happy to help promote Action for Children’s call for as many families, carers and professionals as possible to attend these very important events which are intended to ensure that a full range of views and ideas are collated.”

The consultation sessions have been arranged across Dumfries and Galloway, and will be undertaken by Lesley Gordon and Adam Moffat from Action for Children.

Details are as follows:

2nd March –
• Families, Carers and Public Consultation, 10am – 12 noon and 5pm – 7pm Cresswell and Larchfield Community Centre. Cresswell Hill, Dumfries DG1 2DT
• Staff Consultation, 1pm – 3pm, The Willows Meeting Room, The Willows, Glencaple Road, Dumfries DG1 4TG

3rd March –
• Families, Public and Staff Consultation, 11am-1pm, 2pm – 4pm and 5pm – 7pm, St. John’s Meeting Room, Galloway Hospital, Dalrymple Street, Stranraer, DG9 7DQ)

10th March –
• Families, Carers and Public Consultation, 10am – 12 noon and 5pm – 7pm venue Cresswell and Larchfield Community Centre, Cresswell Hill, Dumfries DG1 2DT
• Staff Consultation, 1pm – 3pm, The Willows Meeting room, The Willows, Glencaple Road, Dumfries DG1 4TG

17th March –
• Families, Carers, Public and Staff Consultation, 10am -7pm, venue the McMillan Hall, Dumfries and Galloway DG8 6EQ.

26th March –
• Families, Carers, Public and Staff Consultation, 12pm – 2pm and 5pm – 7pm, Lockerbie Town Hall, Lockerbie, DG11 2ES

Anyone with questions about the arrangements is asked to contact Action for Children via the following means:

Lesley Gordon
07921940276
0131 659 4712
Lesley.Gordon@actionforchildren.org.uk

or

Adam Moffat
07714346588
0131 659 4712
Adam.Moffat@actionforchildren.org.uk

Call for boys to take up new opportunity of HPV vaccination

A VACCINATION programme in schools helping to protect against cancer is being expanded to include boys for the first time.
 
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination has been offered to S1 schoolgirls in Scotland since 2008, helping to protect against cervical cancer, and parents are now being asked to ensure permission forms for boys are returned as soon a possible.
 
However, Consultant in Public Health Medicine Dr Nigel Calvert said: “We’re very pleased to say that, as of this coming Monday March 2, the HPV school vaccination programme is being extended to boys as well as girls.
 
“This programme has been provided free to girls in S1 since 2008, and the aim of the programme is to prevent infection from the Human Papillomavirus because that will prevent cases of many cancers, but in particular cervical cancer.
 
“It was a very expensive vaccine at the time, and it was only offered to girls because that was felt to be the most efficient way to use the money. But now we’re in a position to be able to offer it to boys in S1 as well, so I’m very much hoping that this will also be a success, and that parents of boys in S1 class will ensure forms are returned as soon as possible.”
 
Dr Calvert explains that the vaccinations will help to establish a general immunity to Human Papillomavirus within the region, offering greater protection to both boys and girls.
 
The vaccination programme for girls and boys is set to run in schools across the region throughout March, and forms have already been sent out.
 
Dr Calvert said: “It’s a great opportunity, and a really good way of reducing the numbers of cases of this form of cancer.”
 
To find out more about Human Papillomavirus (HPV), visit the website https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/immunisation/vaccines/hpv-vaccine

Baby-friendly is best for NHS Dumfries and Galloway Services

NHS DUMFRIES and Galloway’s Neonatal Services have been awarded a Certificate of Commitment in a first step towards gaining international recognition from the UNICEF UK (United Nation’s Children’s Fund) Baby Friendly Initiative.

The Certificate was presented to staff by Janet Dalzell, UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Professional Officer for Scotland on February 18 2020 in the Neonatal Unit, Women and Children’s Wing, Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary.

NHS Dumfries and Galloway Infant Feeding Advisor/UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Co-ordinator for Neonatal Services Kay Black said: “We decided to join forces with the Baby Friendly Initiative to increase breastfeeding rates and to improve care for all mothers in the Neonatal Unit, Women and Children’s Wing, DGRI.

“Breastfeeding protects babies against a wide range of serious illnesses including gastroenteritis and respiratory infections in infancy as well as cardiovascular disease, asthma and diabetes later in life.

NHS Dumfries and Galloway Health and Wellbeing Specialist/Maternal and Infant Nutrition Lead/UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Project Lead Veronica King said: “We also know that breastfeeding reduces the mother’s risk of some cancers – although mothers might be more interested in hearing that it’s easier, cheaper and simply less hassle than bottle feeding.

“We also set out to ensure that all mothers and babies are supported to form a strong loving relationship – whatever their choice of feeding method – as this is the best start for every baby.”

The Baby Friendly Initiative, set up by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, is a global programme which provides a practical and effective way for health services to improve the care provided for all mothers and babies. In the UK, the initiative works with health professionals to ensure that mothers and babies receive high-quality support to enable successful breastfeeding. The Certificate of Commitment recognises that a health care facility is dedicated to implementing recognised best practice standards.

Baby Friendly Initiative Programme Director Sue Ashmore said: “We are delighted that NHS Dumfries and Galloway Neonatal Services has received this award.

“Surveys show us that most mothers want to breastfeed but don’t always get the support they need. Mothers at NHS Dumfries and Galloway Neonatal Services have the satisfaction of knowing that their Neonatal Nurses/Staff Nurses/Healthcare Support Workers are aiming to provide the highest standard of care.”