Agenda item

Verbal updates by Cabinet Member and Director


  1. The Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health, Mr Dan Watkins, provided a verbal update on the following:


Suicide Prevention – The Hope Community Art Exhibition, where art representing hope was used to raise awareness for suicide prevention, went on a regional tour following its launch at Margate’s Turner Contemporary. The exhibition had been organised by the Kent and Medway Suicide Prevention team, local artists and community groups it had also been co-produced by those who had experienced poor mental health. After the launch in July, it had visited Maidstone, Chatham and Tunbridge Wells. The exhibition aimed to highlight the help available to anyone living with suicidal thoughts urges to self-harm or the loss of a loved one who had taken their own life. Mr Kennedy, one of the Councils mental health champions, spoke at the launch event. Mrs Bell, the former Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, had visited the Maidstone event. Mr Watkins then gave a list of support options provided by the Council including: 

Weather Warnings - Mr Watkins noted that a yellow heat health alert had been put in place for early September. Mr Watkins added that the alert was required as vulnerable people were at increased risk and local NHS services expected to be under increased pressure. It was said that Members were encouraged to share awareness information provided through the Councils social media channels.

Bird Flu Restrictions – Mr Watkins said that the last of the control measures in Elham, Folkstone and Hythe had been lifted, which had previously been in place since July 2023. The 10-kilometre surveillance zone, which restricted the movement of birds and bird products without special permission, had also been lifted. Mr Watkins noted that the risk of avian influenza to public health was low, but encouraged residents to help reduce its spread by not touching dead or sick birds with their bare hands and if they find one or more dead birds of prey, swans, geese, ducks or 5 or more dead gulls or wild birds of any species to report it to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).  


  1. Dr Ghosh provided an update on the following:


Covid-19 Update 

  • Dr Ghosh noted that Public Health continued to monitor national data on the number of cases, hospital admissions and, when applicable, the number of deaths. An escalation through each data point would be a cause for concern, but that was not occurring at this time. It was said however that there had been an increase in the number of cases but was starting from a low base. In Kent, the number of cases had gone increased by 201 over the last 7-day period compared with the previous 7 days, an increase of 6.9%. 
  • It was noted that the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) had confirmed a new Covid variant called BA2.86, which had been detected in London. A risk assessment had been completed by the UKHSA and still much was unknown about the variant, but the number and size of mutations were of concern. It was said that due to the new variant, waning immunity and increased indoor mixing as winter begins the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care had asked NHS England to bring the vaccination programme forward and accelerate delivery of the programme, this would now begin, for both Covid-19 and flu, on the 11 September 2023.  
  • Dr Ghosh said that case rates in Kent would continue to be monitored closely as far as the data allows. 

Suicide Prevention  

  • Dr Ghosh noted that 10 September 2023 marked World Suicide Day, and the suicide prevention team were working on awareness campaigns. A 24-hour text line was available and awareness was being raised by Release the Pressure. 
  • It was noted that on 6 September 2023, a major workshop would take place working with the national government to bring stakeholders together to encourage them to work closely to get better access to treatment and recovery services for substance misuse. It was said that several plans were in place to increase the numbers in the services including re-design of the website to enhance accessibility. A new employment and recovery programme would support those in recovery to get back into work. A targeted outreach campaign on drug and alcohol deaths had begun in Thanet and Canterbury.      

Drug Deaths – Dr Ghosh said the number of drug-related deaths had increased nationally and in Kent. The committee were informed that the South-East was at risk from the threat of adulterated heroin, formed by a group of chemicals called Nitazenes and manufactured in laboratories across Europe. Not much is known about synthetic drugs other than they are far more addictive than the original substance. It was said that there had been two confirmed deaths from Nitazenes in Kent. To counter this a local drug information unit had been set up which worked closely with local and national enforcement, police and providers.

Core20PLUSE5 – Dr Ghosh said the Core20PLUS5 agenda was the NHS framework for tackling health inequalities. It was noted that the 20 refers to the 20% most deprived in a geography and the 5 group was defined locally. Public Health was supporting the Integrated Care Strategy (ICS) and Integrated Care Board (ICB) in the definition of the plus groups with partner organisations. It had been adopted that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities were to be one of the priorities as part of the 5 group. 

Family Hubs 

  • Dr Ghosh noted that Public Health had supported the development of the Family Hub tester sites in Margate and Sheerness, through programmes of training, presentation of resources, tools to use with families and a supervised toothbrush programme for oral health. 
  • Following the development of the business case and evaluation of bids providers had been procured for co-creating an Infant Feeding Strategy, which would help develop insights into barriers to breastfeeding, engaging with dads and partners and co-creating Perinatal Mental Health and Parent Infant Relationships Strategy. 

Sexual Health – It was noted that Public Health was supporting the ICB in the development of a Women’s Hub, with funding from NHS England of £595,000 over two years. It was hoped to develop a network that prioritises women’s health targeting certain areas including sexual health for older people and menopause. A new premise had been identified as a single location for integrated specialist sexual health services in Margate, due to open in October 2023.

Lifestyle Interventions 

  • Public Health was working closely with the ICB and the NHS to develop an adult weight management pathway. It was noted that there was a block on the capacity of the pathway, which would need to be looked at differently going forward. 
  • Public Health was in the process of developing an ageing well strategy, informed by the WHO Healthy Age approach. 

Tobacco Control – It was said that there was a new Kent, Young People and Vaping website launched, which would provide information to the public on the facts of vaping and would signpost to school resources. The webpage can be viewed here: Vaping: The facts - Kent County Council


  1. In response to comments and questions from Members. 

(a) Asked by a Member if the Public Health team were just monitoring the COVID-19 data or beginning to actively prepare response measures. Dr Ghosh said they were reviewing the guidance and escalation triggers so that they were prepared to ramp up measures if required. But were currently at a new stage of living with COVID-19 and are actively monitoring the data available from proxy indicators. It was noted that if an escalation was noticed the response would be national rather than county-based and plans were in place ready. Mr Watkins added that preventative methods were being actively considered including the distribution of vaccinations from 11 September 2023 to ensure the safety of residents if a new variant was of more concern.


(b) Asked if greater COVID-19 testing could be done in hospitals to get more data on the unfolding situation with the new variant Dr Ghosh said that Public Health were working closely with UKHSA and that PCR testing was being done in hospitals with genetic testing done on a sample of the results to monitor new variants. It was said that if the new variant of concern were to become more prominent it would be picked up by this testing regime. 


(c) A Member asked about a statement made by the Director for Public Health in Cornwall and if Kent was to expect an announcement for residents to exercise caution. Dr Ghosh said that COVID-19 messaging would be proportional to the regional context and would work closely with the Council’s communications team to support this.   


(d) Asked about the situation regarding Nitrous Oxide Dr Ghosh said work was ongoing with colleagues across the Council and would provide more detail at the next meeting.