In virtual attendance: Paula Wilkins, Chief Nurse for the CCG and executive director lead of the vaccination programme, K&M CCG.
1. The Chair welcomed Ms Wilkins to the Committee and asked her to provide an overview of the report:
a. Members were asked to note that the data included in the report was for July not August (as stated).
b. The Government had announced the inclusion of 12-15 year olds in the vaccination programme. Their vaccines would be administered as part of the school vaccination programme run by Public Health. Information would be made available to schools and families to ensure they have adequate information to make an informed decision.
c. Over 50% of 16-17 year olds in Kent and Medway had been vaccinated. The CCG were working closely with education settings to increase take-up.
d. 3rd doses of the vaccine for those eligible would begin from Monday 20 September. This would be co-administered with the flu jab where possible.
e. The number of patients in hospital with covid-19 was increasing, including 12 individuals being looked after in Intensive Care Units.
f. To reduce elective care waiting times, the health system across Kent and Medway was working together in a bid to ensure equity.
g. The CCG continued to work with GP surgeries to ensure a return to face-to-face appointments where appropriate.
2. Members were invited by the Chair to ask questions. Discussion included:
a. A Member questioned if GP surgeries were aware they would be offering a booster dose of the vaccine from the following Monday. Ms Wilkins confirmed a meeting had been held the day before to address this.
b. The 3rd booster dose would be the Pfizer vaccine and the 15 minute waiting time after injection was important. That time could be used to have the flu-jab, which would be a separate injection. Evidence from trials had indicated it was safe to co-administer the two vaccinations, though in individual cases where that may not be the case, clinical consent would be sought.
c. To encourage take-up of the second dose within cohort 12 (18 years +) of the vaccination rollout, Ms Wilkins explained that various methods had been used including targeted mobile delivery units visiting universities, colleges, festivals and suitable gatherings.
d. Asked what the plans were for reducing the elective care waiting list, Ms Wilkins explained that several approaches were underway, including making use of the private sector, staff working across multiple sites, and increasing the amount of routine care that could be undertaken within GP surgeries. There was also a new orthopaedic centre opening in Canterbury which would help treat appropriate patients. At the time of the meeting, no target dates had been set for reducing the waiting lists but Ms Wilkins offered to keep the Committee informed.
e. A Member asked for co-morbidity data but Ms Wilkins explained this information was not held within the NHS, rather Public Health.
f. A Member had concerns around the long-term health implications of giving 12-15 year olds the vaccine. The Chair responded that society must rely on the judgement of the 4 Chief Medical Officers of the UK nations who had taken the decision and declared it to be safe.
g. In answer to where a child aged 12-15 stands if they want the vaccine but their parent refuses, the Government had stated that children would be able to make the final decision subject to Gillick competency guidelines.
h. A concerned Member had heard instances of a GP practice refusing to offer face-to-face appointments to unvaccinated individuals. Ms Wilkins stated that that should not happen and offered to take the matter further outside of the meeting if she was provided the full details.
i. Responding to concerns of the retail and business sectors, a Member asked what strategies were in place to mitigate the risks of covid to employees and the public at large events and retail outlets. Ms Wilkins explained this was primarily a public health responsibility, though assured the Committee the CCG worked alongside that team. The NHS continued to spread the message “Hands. Face. Space.” and encouraged lateral flow testing as well as isolating if required to do so. She explained that society needed to learn to live with virus transmission and that whilst the vaccine reduced the risk to individuals it did not entirely remove it. Nationally, vaccine passports were being considered. The Chair noted that more on the topic would be discussed that afternoon at a meeting of the Kent and Medway Health and Wellbeing Board.
3. The Chair encouraged members of the public not to phone their GP practice to enquire about the booster programme. Phonelines should be left free for those patients requiring medical care.
4. Following concerns about the large waiting lists accumulating for elective care, the Chair requested that the following information be presented to the Committee at its November meeting:
a. Breakdown of waiting times by district
b. Comparison with wider English counties
c. Information about how Kent’s share of the newly announced £12bn for health would be spent
d. What capacity existed in the system to address the backlog, and what impact would the new funding have on this?
e. Information about how the 4 acute Trusts would work together to reduce waiting times
5. RESOLVED that the report be noted.