Monmouthshire Track, Trace and Protect Service Position report - Scrutiny of a position report following scrutiny on 2nd July 2020
Officers David Jones and Richard Drinkwater presented the report and responded to the members’ questions.
How much difficulty is there in reaching people, when trying to trace them?
Our rates are extremely high, in excess of 80%. It is different in England, as they tried to do it through a form of call centre arrangement. We have approached it more locally. The initial call therefore, where the person answering knows the locations very well, is more constructive. We have utilised our own staff with those skills to make it successful.
There is a concern, mainly in restaurants, that people can give false information. Is there the possibility of people showing I.D.?
This requirement is a legal one. There are QR codes now, which are effective. We are making proactive visits to ensure places are doing this. There is the possibility of false information being given, unfortunately. There have been very few cases of people being obstructive (e.g. in Newport); in those rare cases, the Police are to intervene.
Pupils aren’t allowed into school if they have a symptom, until they have had a test. But in Monmouthshire we don’t have a testing site.
We are liaising with schools directly. Testing is certainly done as a priority but sometimes it is too much, based on a very mild ‘symptom’. Testing locations is a big problem. Arranging testing through the UK portal does tend to send people in lots of different directions, which has been reported as an issue. Cluster events are tending to be prioritised, with individual cases therefore being pushed back, and individuals potentially being sent far afield. We have fed back that the process could be more streamlined and user-friendly. We are nowhere near the point at which Welsh Government would impose a local lockdown.
Does ‘contact’ not have to be for 15 minutes?
If someone is within 1 metre of someone else for 1 minute, that is a contact, then 2 metres for 15 minutes. We are asking with tracing whether people have been in this type of contact. Tea breaks and car sharing often trigger a ‘contact’.
What if not everyone has a phone capable of using the app, whether because of bad signal or the hardware?
10m people have subscribed across the UK, but it doesn’t replace TTP. That system is still in place for anyone without a smartphone who becomes a contact.
What turnaround should we expect on testing for someone in Monmouthshire?
It can be as quick as 24 hours. They are prioritising residents in Care Homes (not so much the staff.) There have been some difficulties with staff, with delays of perhaps 3 or 4 days, which causes a staffing problem and knock-on effects, especially as the contacts also have to isolate until the result comes back. Gwent is struggling with particular clusters, which exacerbate the problem. Aneurin Bevan is aware of the situation and doing what they can to speed things up.
Is it correct that people have been paying for their own tests?
I’m not as sure what’s happening on the private side, though I suspect that that is indeed the case. We don’t see everything on the public side, either: if, for example, people contract the disease within Nevill Hall, then Aneurin Bevan will deal with track and trace themselves, and we won’t be aware of the details. Something different now is Lighthouse Labs, which are private labs but contracted by the NHS.
Regarding the need for mobile testing, when people don’t have cars, how is this organised?
This is set up to address local demand, as needed. For example, Caerphilly installed one in a leisure centre, rapidly. When something happens in one of our towns, health colleagues would rapidly provide a mobile testing station. Agency carers are covered, and regularly tested so that they are not inadvertently spreading the virus when they go out to their work.
Will Public Health feed into planning, and the lessons to be learned from this pandemic, particularly in terms of future plans for population-dense living?
We can speak to Mark Hand about that. We know that Public Health is keen to be more involved in planning and licensing applications. It’s not a surprise that some cities have been badly affected, given their population densities. We will certainly refer to Planning colleagues.
How reassured should we be about the turnaround time for testing in Care Homes? Is there a way for us to help with this?
Priority has been for where there are cases, sometimes to the detriment of the proactive testing. The proactive testing is still happening, but through a Portal arrangement, in which the delays are sometimes 4 or 5 days. I go to a regional meeting three times a week, so with the Chair’s agreement we are happy to feed back that this committee is concerned about Care Home testing, and can it continue to be a priority going forward. I think that will be helpful.
What is the ability, capacity and funding to keep this work going?
The arrangement takes us to 31st March at which time, if nothing has changed, we are sure Welsh Government will continue the funding. There is a particular problem with schools, in terms of being ultra-cautious with testing. All we can really do is feed that back to our health colleagues, and communicate with schools for that not to happen, to try and reduce that burden. But parents and teachers are naturally very concerned, making it very difficult.
Are those from the adviser team returning to their original posts able to re-join in the event of a spike?
We have 16 staff, some of whom are still redeployed from their substantive posts, providing the backbone of our service. The other staff pulled from the community hubs are working 4 hours in TTP. This gives us the confidence that should we need to scale up, we have experienced staff who are trained in the protocols and policies, to enable us to mobilise and meet a demand, if and when it comes.
School absences are a problem at the moment. Is it possible to work with education welfare, who can visit families where parents are keeping their children away unnecessarily?
This is a good point. We liaise as best we can with education departments, to have a consistent message. Environmental health colleagues attend meetings three times a week with education colleagues. Yes, some parents excluding their children from school because they are overly worried about exposure is a real concern. Will Mclean and his team are keeping abreast of that. We need to perhaps link with the education welfare arm, as suggested; there is a capacity issue for us, but be assured that as and when we receive concerns from schools and parents – we are something of a conduit for everyone, at this point – we encourage everyone to enter those safe environments. We will certainly take this point forward and do the best we can.
Is there no one from the educational welfare side who can liaise with the four secondary schools to look at these cases?
We are not clear on this point but can relay it to Will Mclean. Our colleague Diane Thomas, who deals directly with Education, might have more information.
The members expressed their gratitude and admiration for the work performed by officers during this time. Councillor Brown proposed that when public housing is planned, density of the living arrangements needs to be strongly considered on a public health basis.