1. The Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, Mrs Clair Bell, gave a verbal update on the following:
Level 2 Alert Issued by the Met Office – this alert had triggered actions by the NHS and Public Health to support vulnerable people at increased risk of harm. The Committee were reminded of tips such as making regular hot drinks, ordering repeat prescriptions in advance and getting the flu vaccine. A media release had been issued by the Council and further information was available at: https://www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health/winter-health.
Public Health Campaigns –
A) Mrs Bell said that the Winter Health campaign had focused on protecting key workers and promoted steps to take to keep well during winter. This campaign was part of the Protect Kent and Medway initiative, with the aim to keep all residents as safe as possible.
B) In January 2022, the National Better Health Smokefree Campaign was encouraging adult smokers to quit smoking. There was free support for those looking to quit, including local Smokefree advisory services and the NHS Quit Smoking App. Further information was available at: https://www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health/one-you-kent/quit-smoking.
C) The Committee was told that the Know Your Score campaign launched in November 2021 was followed by Dry January. Further information was available at: https://www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health/one-you-kent/drink-less/know-your-score-quiz.
D) The Kent Healthy Weight Campaign, supported by One You Kent, was aimed to help adults to lose weight and get active. Mrs Bell said that the figures for 2019-20 estimated that 64% of adults aged over 18 in Kent were overweight. This was above the national average of just under 63%. Health experts were concerned that changes in lifestyle due to the pandemic may raise this figure. Further information was available at: https://www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health/one-you-kent/healthy-weight.
2. Dr Allison Duggal, Interim Director of Public Health, gave a verbal update on the following:
COVID-19 Update – although the NHS had winter pressures, the outlook was optimistic. It was said that children were no longer expected to wear face masks in secondary schools during classes. However, they were still expected to wear them in common areas. Self-isolation requirements were expected to be removed in March.
Vaccinations were recommended to those who had not had their vaccination yet and to those who required boosters. Further information about the vaccination programme was available on the NHS website: https://www.kentandmedwayccg.nhs.uk/your-health/coronavirus/covid19vaccine. Reference was made to ‘anti-vaxxers’ at vaccination sites and this was being looked into by the Public Health service.
In light of the easing of restrictions, the Committee, officers and the public were reminded to remain cautious about COVID-19 and other diseases. It was said that Alien Influenza had been found in the United Kingdom.
Coastal Communities -an Annual Public Health Report was expected to be finished imminently. This would highlight coastal communities and allow people to review the data.
3. Dr Duggal responded to comments and questions from the committee, including the following:
A) The asymptomatic testing centres in Kent were still active. These were expected to stay open pending further reviews in the next financial year.
B) It was acknowledged that there had been problems associated with the access to lateral flow tests. At the time of the meeting, there was no indication about the expected costs of home lateral flow tests.
C) Work had been done to ensure that KCC staff were supported by managers with issues relating to low morale. In terms of sufficiency of the workforce, recruitment into specialised positions in Public Health was said to be an important part of the COVID-19 recovery process.
4. It was RESOLVED that the verbal updates be noted.