Firstly, as we're now into the second lockdown, I wanted to express how grateful and inspired I am by all our key workers keeping the community safe and essential services running during such uncertain and worrying times. Thank you to everyone across and beyond the THT partnership for everything you're doing for us all. I recently experienced the local test and trace system personally (for my 3-year-old) and was genuinely impressed by how efficient and caring it was.
This month's Exec Board meeting had a jam-packed agenda, with a focus on shielding, digital inclusion, voluntary sector strategy and the locality health and wellbeing committees, plus our standing local delivery board and performance reports.
First up, we heard from Rob, who shared his experience of living alone, with multiple health conditions and as part of the shielding group. He raised Covid-specific impacts including not being able to get his medication from the pharmacy, no dentistry care and lack of outdoor space -in over 180 days of isolation, he only had 2 days outside of his flat. He struggled to access health appointments, with no safe way to travel to Chelsea & Westminster hospital and they wouldn't allow video calls. Local systems also assume everyone has a phone and require this for some online forms e.g. to seek help and support when shielding, which is a barrier for some disabled people. He wasn't proactively approached by local services about his needs during the lockdown, though he did get food parcels, and had to fight to get services to share his information so care was more joined up. Board members were concerned about the access barriers across transport, phone and video contact, and the failure of local services to reach out to him when shielding, and pledged to follow up on specific actions.
We had an update on the digital inclusion co-production project, where 'working together' groups made up of services, voluntary sector organisations and residents are developing 8 projects across 4 themes: insights, skills-building training, access to devices and personalisation. Digital poverty and lack of hardware and internet data continue to be a major barrier -the Board agreed concerned action and a system-wide campaign on access to tech was essential, to be raised via the wider Tower Hamlets Partnership which includes Canary Wharf Group and East London Business Alliance.
This month's performance report had responded to Board feedback but there were still questions about the inclusion of the most up-to-date data, e.g. on Royal London bed occupancy, and concerns children's data across social care and health are still missing. We also agreed it's imperative to move on from tweaking the report to actually discussing and acting on the trends and red flags highlighted -partners asked for preparation before each meeting to highlight the three key system concerns that need the Exec Board's attention and action. Questions were asked about increases in adult safeguarding referrals, which are partly seasonal but also rising year on year, due we think to good awareness-raising work that safeguarding adults is everyone's business.
We had a verbal report on the Local Delivery Board, which met the day before. Membership is now broadly right at this operational level and the pace is maintained through a smaller group meeting weekly. Chris Banks of the GP Care Group chairs this group and reported on the master plan with overall goals to reduce hospital admissions and get people home quicker, through 38 schemes of work based on 5 themes: care close to home, hospital to home, mental health and learning disability, prevention and children and young people. Board members were pleased with progress but felt the programme still feels quite health-focussed and adult-dominated, which all partners agreed to address urgently.
Peter Okali, CEO of the Council for Voluntary Services (CVS), presented the new voluntary and community sector strategy, which is now to be agreed and delivered across all borough partners, not just the council and CVS. Key priorities relating to THT including the accessibility of commissioning for smaller and BAME-led organisations, visibility and engagement of VCS partners across THT and strengthening VCS involvement in the THT workforce strategy. Board members were pleased to sign off the strategy principles and committed to supporting Peter and his team to conduct a stock take and mapping of the health of the voluntary sector post-Covidand beyond.
Last but not least, we reviewed the locality health and wellbeing committees (LHWCs), which operate in four quadrants of the borough, with two GP networks in each LHWC. They are established, meeting monthly, have a locality needs assessment to drive their work and bring a wide range of partners to the table, including patients and community groups in some. On the flip side, there is patchy attendance from some partners, covid has derailed locality projects, the way meetings work does not drive forward change and there is a gap with no locality dashboards to track performance or trends. The Board agreed they are a highly valuable forum for information exchange, local relationship-building and pushing forward action on specific local priorities, but we need to be clearer with LHWCs about expectations, their mandate and how we will support them to deliver, plus develop a stronger children's element.
Next month we will have a deep dive on finance and system pressures -and I look forward to reporting back soon.
Stay safe and well in the meantime.
Amy Gibbs, Independent Chair of Tower Hamlets Together