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Duncan Selbie's Friday Message - 19 June 2020

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Dear everyone

BAME communities

This week PHE presented the findings of our ‘Beyond the data: Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups’ report to the Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch MP. This work, led by Professor Kevin Fenton, supports our rapid review of the disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19 published earlier this month, which confirmed that COVID-19 has replicated existing health inequalities and in some cases exacerbated them.

Kevin and his team have engaged more than 4,000 people who represent the views of BAME communities, to gather insights into factors that may be influencing the impact of COVID-19 and to find potential solutions, alongside a rapid literature review conducted with the National Institute for Health Research. The insights make for humbling reading and the clear message from everyone was to focus on tangible actions, provided at scale and pace, that address the underlying factors driving inequality. We warmly welcome the Government’s commitment to tackling these disparities and will continue to work with the Equalities Minister to play our part in this. You can read more about this ongoing work here.

NHS Test and Trace

I would like to pay tribute to the PHE local health protection teams (HPTs) and local authority Directors of Public Health who are together working tirelessly to contain outbreaks and significant incidents of COVID-19. Each of these is unique, requiring bespoke professional advice and support. Our local teams have been busy advising schools, care homes, NHS Trusts, factories and other workplaces, members of the public and health and care professionals on how to contain transmission. HPTs are highly skilled at carrying out risk assessments and working with organisations to put in place tailored action plans, including how to best manage the isolation of cases, how to increase cleaning, and how to warn and inform other people that might be at risk.

The Association of Directors of Public Health has published principles for the design of COVID-19 local outbreak plans, developed together with PHE and other key partners, which is worth a read.

Social Care Taskforce

The Secretary of State for Health has established a new Social Care Sector COVID-19 Support Taskforce under the leadership of David Pearson CBE, which met for the first time on Thursday. The taskforce will oversee the delivery of the Care Home Support Package, which includes a £600 million Infection Control Fund ringfenced for social care and given to local authorities to ensure care homes can cover the costs of implementing measures to reduce transmission, as well as the other measures in the COVID-19 Adult Social Care Action Plan. The taskforce will provide clear advice on what action needs to take place across all parts of the social care sector in England to prepare for the months ahead and for our first COVID-19 winter.

Psychological First Aid

And finally, there are things we can all do to help look after our own mental wellbeing, as well as that of others. To support this, PHE has published a Psychological First Aid (PFA) training module for all frontline and essential workers and volunteers, supported by NHS England and Health Education England, which aims to increase awareness of how to support the psychological wellbeing of people affected by COVID-19. PFA is a globally recognised training course in emergency situations, with the World Health Organization and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee recommending training frontline workforce, including volunteers, in providing psychosocial support in emergencies.

We have also updated our guidance on mental health and wellbeing for the public, and for parents and carers of children and young people, which you can find here.

Best wishes



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