A local outbreak plan – designed to show how the county will work together to contain and control the COVID-19 virus locally – has been published for Northamptonshire.

All local authorities in England were instructed to publish a COVID-19 local outbreak plan by 30th June 2020 to show how they would work with partners at Public Health England and the NHS, the voluntary sector and with the wider community to protect the public’s health from the on-going threat posed by the virus.

A local outbreak is defined as having two or more laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 linked by time or place.

Locally referred to as the Northamptonshire COVID-19 Outbreak Prevention and Control Plan, the high level document has several aims which include:

  • Protecting the public and saving lives
  • Delivering a rapid and robust localised response to outbreaks
  • Building on existing roles, responsibilities and powers to contain the virus.

The plan is supported by a number of detailed policies, processes and action cards which will be used by members of the local COVID-19 Health Protection Board to take steps to mitigate risk where it is identified.

The local outbreak plan is designed to cover a range of scenarios and these include:

  • Planning for local outbreaks in care homes, workplaces and schools
  • Identifying and planning how to manage other high risk settings, locations and communities of interest
  • Supporting vulnerable people to get help to self-isolate
  • Ensuring services meet the needs of diverse communities

The plan will be adaptable to changing circumstances and will be amended to reflect changes in national guidance and based on a sector-led improvement approach to learning.

Northamptonshire’s Director of Public Health, Lucy Wightman and her Local Health Protection Team have drawn up the plan, alongside Public Health Specialists such as Environmental Health Officers, colleagues across NCC, local health partnerships and the regional Public Health England Health Protection Team. Prevention and the management of outbreaks will require countywide system collaboration, which means that partnership working with local Police, NHS, voluntary sector organisations and our local communities is essential in delivering the plan.

The local Health Protection Team will work with regional colleagues to access information, data and intelligence to aid the early identification of increases in cases and outbreaks, to plan appropriate actions, to monitor outcomes and to ensure clear communication and engagement with affected residents.

Director of Public Health in Northamptonshire, Lucy Wightman said: “Although we now have our Local Outbreak Prevention and Control Plan in place – it will be subject to change as we will need to adapt to changing circumstances.

“By working in collaboration with partners, both locally and regionally, we can plan and prepare to respond to any emerging outbreaks and learn from other areas to ensure we are following best practice.

“It’s key that the public understand the important role they have to play in the delivery of this plan, both in following the measures set out by Government, but also through engagement with our teams to ensure that we are delivering the plan in a way that supports all sectors of our local community.”

An additional £300 million of funding has been allocated nationally to local authorities as a one-off grant for 2020/21 to support the delivery of the outbreak plans.

However delivery of the plan requires much more than money, it relies on a fully operational NHS Test and Trace Service, high quality and timely data flows and the right levels of capacity across the local system to take action when required to reduce any identified risks. Each member of the local community has a significant role to play in controlling the virus, by following social distancing measures, being stringent with hand washing and by self-isolating if symptomatic and seeking testing as soon as possible.

Locally the Director of Public Health will be supported by, and work in collaboration with, the Northamptonshire Local Resilience Forum and a newly formed COVID-19 Oversight and Engagement Board. This Board will be led by council members with representation from HealthWatch and wider system leaders, to engage and communicate openly with the public on the current outbreak situation in Northamptonshire.