Coronavirus (COVID 19): Advisory Sub-Group on Public Health Threat Assessment minutes: 16 July 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the Advisory Sub-Group on Public Health Threat Assessment, held on 16 July 2020.

Items and actions

1. Welcome and Apologies

The chair welcomed members to the first meeting of the group and invited participants to introduce themselves.

Apologies ­: Christine McLaughlin, Nicola Steedman

2. Terms of Reference – Purpose of the Group

The group discussed the terms of reference of the group. It noted the importance of linking in with partner organisations working on response strategies in relation to Covid-19 and Winter 2020/21, including transport and local government.

3. Winter Planning Report

The chair presented his draft winter planning paper Winter planning in the time of COVID, which the group discussed. The group also noted the content of the Academy of Medical Science report Preparing for a challenging winter 2020/21.

What may we expect in winter? It seems reasonable to expect that Covid and seasonal flu will be circulations together this winter. How will we manage the challenge of two different viruses circulating in the community when both have symptoms of cough, temperature, muscle soreness etc?

The meeting considered the challenges of testing for COVID-19 in such circumstances. a brief discussion as to the present arrangements for testing and support for patients with such symptoms. General Practice has been protected to a great extent by patients with these symptoms being sent to COVID-19 hubs. A brief discussion as to the continuation of these hubs took place.

The group noted that there is a potential scenario where two vaccines are being issued; a Flu vaccine and a Covid-19 vaccine. The group highlighted the need for integrated plans for administering both vaccines. The importance of keeping GP surgeries safe for patients with other conditions was highlighted.

The other main discussion area was the winter flu vaccination programme. Who would get the vaccine? Almost certainly, there would need to be an extended list of eligible people. How would the list be compiled and agreed?

Where would flu vaccines be administered? GP surgeries would not really be suitable for large numbers while social distancing was in effect. It seems likely that current arrangements which directed patients with symptoms to hubs might still be required.

The group noted the impact on winter planning considerations relating to available space and frequency of appointments in primary care settings owing to the existing Covid-19 guidance in relation to physical distancing and PPE.

The group highlighted the importance of planning and separately evaluating the impacts on Assessment Centres – where symptoms are triaged - and Hubs – where vaccines are administered.  

The group discussed and decided that it should give advice on:

  • the principles that should be followed for assessment of  vaccination programmes
  • the strategy for flu vaccinations for health and care workers
  • prioritisation of flu vaccinations in relation to different groups in society
  • the planning of vaccination and assessment initiatives and the impact of primary and hospital care

The group noted that each health board would have plans for winter planning in relation to Covid-19 and Flu.

There was agreement of the need to make efforts to increase uptake of flu vaccine and Comms involvement would be necessary. The group discussed that good communication will be key in relaying plans for winter preparedness to health care workers and the public. It was suggested that a good publicity campaign would be one that is built of the Scottish Government’s current Covid-19 awareness marketing. Point of care testing would be essential to differentiate between flu and COVID-19 cases. The main topic for the next meeting would be to establish the readiness of the NHSScotland to deliver effective point of care testing   

4. Group Membership

The group discussed additional members who should be invited to join the group to strengthen links and expand the group’s expertise.

5. AOB and date of next meeting

The group agreed to discuss ‘point of care testing’ at their next meeting on Wednesday 22 July.

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