Occasionally we highlight an article that gives particular insight into the Coronavirus pandemic. In this case it’s the report of Dame Mary Ney’s rapid stocktake of lessons learnt from the Leicester City/Leicestershire experience of responding to a local surge in COVID-19 cases. It is particularly insightful on local authority input into the crisis and the relationships between local communities, local authorities and government. Below is the introduction and key findings. The full report is here.
This rapid stocktake was undertaken between 5 and 21 August 2020 and has sought to identify the good practice and key learning in dealing with a local Covid-19 outbreak, with a focus on the experience in Leicester City and Leicestershire. It has been undertaken from a local perspective but has also identified message for other parts of the system.
The Leicester City/Leicestershire Intervention was the first of its type and commenced when some of the architecture for managing such an event was underdeveloped and had never been exercised. Not surprisingly there was some turbulence in the early stages, but the stocktake found a high level of energy and commitment by all agencies and their staff to work together and tackle the situation. This is borne out by an openness and flexibility in seeking solutions and a continuous learning environment amongst all those working on the ground in the City and the County.
Even during the course of this stocktake, adjustments were being made to arrangements and ways of working nationally and locally. All agencies have been involved in capturing good practice and there is a rich array of operational examples.
The key learning points from this stocktake, therefore, have focused on the strategic and systems messages and the signposting of good practice. These are described in detail in the report but in summary:
1. Review the national and local governance frameworks to clarify the interface between them, how councils will be engaged and to strengthen local political oversight.
2. Councils need to exercise local outbreaks scenarios so they are well prepared.
3. The management and effectiveness of announcements of changes in local restrictions could be improved by the use of a checklist of requirements.
4. Ongoing work is required to improve the testing data available, in particular, data on ethnicity and workplace.
5. Councils should ensure they understand their communities and have community cohesion arrangements in place so that community and business engagement is effective.
6. In devising tactical control plans don’t underestimate the range of skills and local knowledge that councils can deploy at pace from across the organisation.
7. There is scope to further the role of local councils and to move to a more preventative whole system approach on the ground bringing together scaling up of testing, tracing and supporting self-isolation and shielding.
8. There is a need to refine the application of the new regulatory framework in achieving compliance of businesses and events.
9. In Civil Contingencies arrangements, the role of local political leaders and local elected representatives should be reviewed.
10.Implementation of a Local Political Oversight Board to provide a forum for local political leaders to have collective oversight of the management of the outbreak.
11.Integration of the PHE Incident Management Team into local resilience structures and establishing a joint outbreak management team.
12.Community and Business Engagement building on local knowledge and community cohesion work.
13.The local approach to scaling up testing – City Reach – used on the ground teams drawing on the local knowledge of council staff, local NHS staff and volunteers to undertake door to door visits.
14. Tracing contacts using the range of existing council data bases and systems as well as on the ground teams.
15.Bespoke Data Base built to capture activity and testing outcomes of the City Reach Teams.