Thursday 1 October 2020 marked the 50th meeting of the GOLD group. It also marked the closing period for Phase 2 of the response plan. The operating plan to take us through the next 12 to 18 months is in draft stage and the Executive will be discussing it in detail next week. We therefore agreed at Gold to extend the formal close of Phase 2 by two weeks to 14 October 2020.
The COVID-19 situation in Wales has increased in scale and complexity over the last few weeks. We are seeing an increase in cases and more restrictions applied across localities in Wales. The response to the pandemic continues to have an impact on the organisation and the pressure has increased on our staff and services. The Strategic Directors, in consultation with the Incident Directors, continuously assess the impact of the pandemic and the organisation’s ability to respond and it remains our view that it is appropriate for Public Health Wales to remain at an enhanced response level. However, although we do not believe that we have reached a threshold to declare a major incident, which has to take into account wider considerations outside the organisation, we need to allocate our resources in line with the demands of a major incident.
The development of the next phase of our national response is progressing. Briefly there are several elements. First, we need to strengthen our specialist input to the regional Test, Trace, Protect (TTP) regional teams established at Health Board level (jointly with local authorities) across Wales. Seven Public Health Protection Consultant posts are being recruited from among our consultant workforce to work alongside our specialists in Health Protection (Consultants in Communicable Disease Control/Consultants in Health Protection). These posts are aligned to the seven regional TTP areas and the process is well underway for filling the posts and setting out job plans, and I am immensely grateful to the consultants that have agreed to take on this role.
We are also looking at how we appropriately mobilise and make best use of the expertise of our highly skilled Public Health Practitioners and the wider pool of consultants that have been deployed to support the response. The organisation has made it clear that the given commitment of staff deployed to support the response has not changed. We know that many of our staff are making a significant contribution to the response in regional teams and we need this to continue. Again, I would like to pay tribute to and thank all of our staff that have mobilised.
In our current proposals for responding to the pandemic we have highlighted the importance of providing some essential functional services including guidance development, training, prevention activities, applied behavioural science, and port health and support to the UK and Welsh Government’s policies on border control. As we look at the way we are deploying our staff we are paying close attention to the way we are delivering these technical activities.
Finally, but by no means last we continue to refine the role of the National Contact Centre, working to integrate this more effectively into the health protection response. This will clarify the role of the National Contact Centre and the types of enquiries it should look to handle.
As ever, I remain extremely grateful for the focus and dedication that staff are putting towards maintaining and improving the service we deliver. As I wrote last week, many staff will continue to be mobilised to support the response and I hope to be able to provide more clarity in the coming days on what this means for staff and managers. In the meantime, I’d like to express my continued thanks for your contribution and sustained effort.