Section 2: Sector specific advice to support outbreak management
Scottish Government has been working with stakeholders in the creation of sector specific COVID-19 guidance. Such guidance is invaluable in helping all those working in a sector or setting to know what to do should they suspect an outbreak, who they need to contact, and what to do if an outbreak situation is confirmed. The aim of the Scottish Workbook is to help translate what can be a lot of information into a what we have called Sector Advice Card that will facilitate a clear and consistent approach when working in partnership with the local Director of Public Health and their Health Protection Teams, the Local Authority Environmental Health and wider teams, and national agencies involved in the management of the pandemic.
Sector Advice Cards will be developed. These will be based on formal guidance documentation that has been issued by the Scottish Government, Public Health Scotland and other agencies. They will be designed to be used by those who have responsibility for an individual setting as a single point of access to the key information on how to minimise the risk of an outbreak, what to do if someone reports symptoms of COVID-19 that may increase the chances of the virus being transmitted to others, and what would be expected of them if the local IMT needs to act in managing a local incident or outbreak.
The process for the creation of these SACs is currently being piloted (template card in Appendix 3).
How to use the Sector Advice Cards?
Sector Advice Cards are intended to be tools for the workplace, for example attached to a notice board. They will not replace existing guidance, but will sign-post to it. SACs are designed to help take action that will help with:
- preventing transmission of the virus by applying existing guidance appropriate to the sector on measures such as physical distancing, compliance with the outcomes of risk assessments to promote safe working;
- knowing how (and when) to communicate concerns to the local Director of Public Health’s Health Protection Team (HPT) if there have been sudden increases of symptomatic illness in staff/students/residents or in positive test results from the NHS Scotland Test and Protect process;
- taking immediate actions that will help suppress the spread of the virus when an incident or outbreak is suspected until contacted by the local HPT who will help you through the rest of the process; and
- supporting further action as advised by local HPTs, including when to stand down any extra actions to manage the outbreak.
Who does what?
As a general approach actions which are designed to prevent virus transmission would be undertaken by those responsible for the individual settings (schools, shops, factories, care homes, etc.). This would be through the use of safe working practices and suitable social distancing measures, with support from the local Environmental Health team and national agencies involved in the regulation and safety of workplaces (e.g. FSS, HSE, Care Inspectorate).
Responsibility for managing incidents and outbreaks, including the identification and assignment of specific roles to members of the IMT, will rest with the Director of Public Health and the local HPT. Although, as discussed in the previous section depending on the escalation level of an outbreak, different partners can be involved.
So, if there is any suspicion that there may be a cluster of cases in a workplace or setting more generally, the most important thing to do is to contact your local NHS Board HPT early. Do not spend time trying to work out what should be done by yourself. The local HPT will be happy to advise on what to do. It is very important that the expert HPT be advised as early as possible of a possible problem so they can assess the situation and offer advice.
Contact details for the local Health Protection Teams are available here.
What Sectors are covered?
These will eventually cover a wide range of sectors and settings. Sectors, and settings within them, could include: education, e.g. colleges; workplaces, e.g. in agriculture; consumer outlets, e.g. cafes and restaurants; social venues, e.g. cinemas; institutions, e.g. courts; travel and movement, e.g. mass gatherings. In creating any SAC, the advice provided within the cards would be extracted from current (or future) sector guidance, alongside incident and outbreak management guidance.
Where more information can be found
Scottish Health Protection Network / Public Health Scotland Management of Public Health Incidents: Guidance on the Roles and Responsibilities of NHS Led Incident Management Teams. Scottish Guidance No 12.1 interim update (2020).
Public Health Scotland COVID-19 guidance pages, which cover a range of topics and settings, both within and outwith healthcare
Scottish Government COVID-19 guidance pages, including the route map out of lockdown, information for individuals, businesses, education, and in relation to housing and other settings.
Public Health England COVID-19 guidance pages, provides guidance in relation to England on a range of topics and settings.
Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), who provide scientific advice to UK government, COVID-19 response pages, which includes information on their role, and the minutes and meeting papers of their meetings.
World Health Organisation COVID-19 advice for the public and technical guidance, which includes guides on a various topics relevant to the pandemic from laboratory guidance to risk communication, to workplace guidance.