How NECS have been helping in the fight against COVID-19 - Part Two

Part Two sees us continue to share our responses to COVID-19. We’ve been hard at work supporting our NHS colleagues, and health and social care organisations to fight the pandemic and maintain as many services as possible, throughout these unusual times.

Setting up specialist primary care assessment units

In response to COVID-19, we designed, set up and configured a number of specialist primary care assessment units known as ‘Hot Hubs’ for people exhibiting coronavirus symptoms. 


Working with 10 local CCGs, the units enabled patients to be assessed in a separate location, reducing avoidable attendances at GP practices and protecting both patients and staff from the risk of infection.


This was an entirely new way of working for the GP practice staff who were supported by the Programmes and Projects Team to manage the change in business processes by:


  • Coordinating conversion of the General Practice estate
  • Providing the necessary additional IT equipment
  • Re-locating staff and equipment to the newly designated Hot Hub areas
  • Identifying a suitable practice/location for suspected and confirmed Covid-19 patients to be cohorted for appointments; and ensuring hot and cold (non-COVID areas) were completely segregated, with separate entrance and exits. This was a critical response to enable primary care to continue to provide services to those in need and was achieved at record pace with a maximum 2-3 day turnaround per site.


Working with colleagues to form a dedicated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) team

With staff from a range of NECS departments, as well as from North and East London CSU, NHS England, Department of Health and Social Care, the MoD and Cabinet Office, the PPE team is responsible for procuring and delivering key protective equipment to frontline staff across all sectors of health and social care.


We have been working daily with suppliers and manufacturers from all over the world, not only those who regularly supply PPE and are used to working with the NHS, but also small, innovative companies who have re-purposed their operations in response to COVID-19. We have also been collaborating with big companies and brands that we all know, like Jaguar Land Rover, who are gifting PPE to the NHS.


The PPE team is a great example of a collaborative effort of individuals and organisations, all working remotely to deliver for the NHS.


Cross-regional working

Our Consultancy Service has demonstrated great cross-regional working and flexibility throughout the pandemic, responding rapidly to the tasks of new and existing customers. They have adapted to and rapidly resourced a number of high profile and fast moving COVID-19 related projects.


We began by  providing governance support followed by a Programme Management Office to the COVID-19 Regional Oversight Group in London, working with local authorities, Public Health England, the London Ambulance Service and the voluntary sector.


In addition, the team has developed a non-clinical support programme to identify and transition key workers requiring a COVID-19 test to a local test centre. This has been rolled out across sites including in the North East of London, South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, Humber Coast and Vale and West Yorkshire and Harrogate. We were able to apply our learning from having set up one of the first testing sites in the country at the IKEA car park in Gateshead.


The Consultancy Service has also:

  • Supported the roll-out and successful implementation of “Attend Anywhere” outpatient video consultations across London and East Regions
  • Provided Demand and Capacity modelling around Covid-19 Testing in the Midlands





Developing Standard Operating Procedures for COVID-19 patients

In partnership with primary care staff, we developed a range of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and tools to support the safe and effective management of eight primary care 'red hubs’, managing COVID-19 patients across North Cumbria.


An online resource called GP Team Net, was used to summarise and signpost staff to key local and national support and tools. Our experience in delivering a range of SOPs for both internal practice procedures and home visiting was invaluable for this project. Information was uploaded to a central GP Team Net repository to ensure a standard process across all eight sites.


Understanding the impact of COVID-19

In March, our Medicines Optimisation team began preparations to develop an understanding of the likely impact of COVID-19. Work was undertaken to model the expected timescale and pace of infections and when this was likely to impact at a local level. This highlighted a narrow window of opportunity, based on the exponential increase in cases in other parts of the world, for preparation work to be complete.


Whilst case numbers were low,the Medicines Optimisation team undertook to:

  • Survey the IT and telephony equipment staff had available to them
  • Identify who regularly worked away from the office to understand who may not be familiar with how to do this
  • Installed WhatsApp on all staff mobile phones and set up contact groups
  • Ensured all staff were automatically logging into Jabber
  • Identified any connectivity issues
  • Updated communication lists
  • Increased the use of video conferencing to improve familiarity


Based on previous experience of Pandemic Swine Flu, the Medicines Optimisation team anticipated a re-prioritisation of work in order to focus on patient safety, and medicines supply issues. As a result a Start/Stop list was drawn up with input from Janet Walker (Medical Director, Tees CCG) for use across all NECS CCG customers in order to support the prioritisation of critical tasks.


Providing training for care homes

Working with colleagues at North Cumbria CCG over a two week period, our Continuing Healthcare Team delivered infection prevention and control training to care homes in North Cumbria.


This helped the North East and Yorkshire Region reach out and provide essential IPC training 81% of care homes -  the highest percentage in the country.  


CHC colleagues also supported the wider system to avoid hospital admissions and speed up safe discharges. Many were redeployed to other organisations across the region to support the fight against COVID-19 including one colleague, who was previously a Deputy Care Home Manager,  volunteered to help in  a 70-bed care home in Carlisle where 44 patients and staff had tested positive with COVID-19.


She said: “It didn’t feel as if it was a huge decision. It may sound like a strange choice of words, but I absolutely loved helping them out. I didn’t want to feel frustrated that my skills weren’t being put to good use.


“I was there for a two week period, working 12 hour shifts and my main aim was to take some stress away from the manager by providing support. The manager and the carers are the true heroes. They just continued to do their job with the same amount of dedication, if not a bit more, and put the clients they look after day to day first, before themselves.”


To find out about our full range of support and how we can support your health or social care organisation at this difficult time, take a look at our service offering or email .  

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