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Update on County Durham's health protection

Published April 14, 2021 10.42am

Councillors will be updated on County Durham's health protection action plan and the indirect effects of the coronavirus pandemic on services next week.

 Cabinet will hear of some key health protection achievements, in an annual report overseen by the county's Health Protection Assurance and Development Group (HPADG).

The group focuses on screening and immunisation programmes, outbreaks and communicable diseases, strategic regulation interventions and preparedness and responses to incidents and emergencies.

Achievements in health protection 

Achievements include an improved uptake of the flu vaccination amongst eligible groups as well as sustained delivery of the national immunisation programmes and Antenatal and Newborn Screening programme, which were unaffected by the pandemic.

Childhood immunisations programmes across the county have seen higher rates than the national targets, with vaccinations delivered through primary care.

Our extended offer to vaccinate all staff against the flu also saw a much-improved uptake on the previous year. To date, 3,981 staff members have received a vaccine in the 2020-21 programme.

Meanwhile, cancer screening coverage rates in the county have consistently exceeded national averages up to and including 2019. In 2019, breast screening coverage in County Durham was 78.4 per cent compared to a national average of 74.5 per cent. Cervical screening coverage was 76.9 per cent in the same year, 5 per cent higher than the national average.

Despite progress in these areas, ensuring higher uptake of screening and immunisation programmes remains a development area.

The impact of the pandemic 

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted on the delivery of adult screening programmes, although some screening services have been restored and others are currently recovering.

In response to the pandemic, we have established an outbreak control team, with public health staff working seven days a week to monitor and respond to clusters and outbreaks of coronavirus.

It has also worked with partner organisations to help prepare for and respond to public health incidents this year, while its emergency response procedures have been reviewed and revised in response to the evolving coronavirus guidance.

Amanda Healy, our director of public health, said: "Despite challenges with the way in which flu vaccinations were delivered as a result of the pandemic, it is great to see a higher uptake amongst all eligible groups since the previous year and I am pleased that our immunisation programmes have continued.

"The pandemic has brought about significant change to health protection processes and structures, and more change is likely over this next year as we continue to respond to coronavirus. However, we also remain focused on other health protection functions to help residents live long and healthy lives."

Cabinet will meet virtually at 9.30am on Wednesday, 21 April. The meeting can be viewed online at DCC on YouTube.

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