A MESSAGE FROM THE NEW VICAR

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As your new Vicar I am delighted to have this opportunity to introduce myself here until such time as I can do so in person.

When my husband Leo retired in August we returned to our roots in North East Norfolk where we have a small cottage whilst I looked for a job. We are very much looking forward to living in North Northumberland, knowing the area a little after a 19-year stint in the north east whilst Leo was Chair of the Newcastle District of the Methodist Church and I was Chaplain to Newcastle Airport. I hope to increase my cycling fitness as we shall be living in Branxton initially, so please do call out to me if you see me puffing by!

I grew up near Cromer on the Norfolk coast, and after university in Birmingham and Cambridge, began a career in teaching Latin and Phys Ed. Being married to a Methodist Minister meant we moved every 5 or 7 years, serving churches first in Derbyshire, then Lancashire and Cheshire before arriving in Cullercoats, where I started to work for Tyneside Youth for Christ, setting up ‘Rock Solid Clubs’ across the north east. Finally, we moved to Fenham, and I joined and eventually headed up the airport chaplaincy team. I trained for ordination in Cambridge whilst we were living in Rutland.

So, we return to the north east eager to reconnect, knowing that there are many challenges ahead both in the Church and in the wider society, not least as a result of the pandemic. My appointment is to a half time post and that will take shape over time, but I am looking forward in the immediate to as many casual encounters as possible to start to get to know you and to being part of the community. I enjoy playing squash, hoping that will be possible again soon before I get much older and I love being outdoors and walking by the sea. Leo and I recently completed St Edmund’s Way in Suffolk, and loved St Oswald’s Way too, but little did we know when we walked St Cuthbert’s Way a few years ago that we would be living here in 2021!

Revd Charlotte Osborn

COMMUNITY AWARDS FOR 2020

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2020 saw an unparalleled challenge to our lives and our community. Naturally, this produced a host of people who stepped forward to help others through the imprisonment of lockdown.

The Parish Council decided that this year’s COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARDS should be given to those who had helped others in the Pandemic. It received several nominations for named individuals, as well as groups who have helped out alongside.

Accordingly, the decision was to award everyone who was nominated with an award. For the groups who were mentioned, there will be a certificate of service for each named member.

The intention was to produce the usual Engraved Salver, and distribute it before Christmas – but the shop in Berwick was closed by holidays, and then has gone into lockdown, so we are awaiting delivery, and this may be some time – so at the first opportunity, the Salvers will be made, collected  and presented.

In the meantime here are the winners of this year’s award – so thanks and congratulations to them – and their helpers, where appropriate.

  • RICHIE & KAREN BLAKE and the Village Shop
  • PHILIP HANSON
  • PAUL LANGDALE
  • JANE PANNELL
  • ANNIE & DAVID ROBINSON, and the Lowick Sewing Group and Friends

LATEST FROM OUR MP

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The latest news from Westminster and NorthumberlandI do hope everyone is keeping well. Please see various updates below.  As ever, if you know of anyone who does not subscribe, please do forward this on, or they can sign up themselves via my website or by emailing me with “subscribe” in the email.

Vaccinations
Here in Northumberland, our GP-led hubs and district nurses plus other volunteers are doing an incredible job ensuring those most vulnerable are vaccinated from covid-19. I understand all care homes have now been covered, and some areas are now moving on to over 70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable.  District nursing teams are getting out to those who find it harder to travel. A reminder that the priority at the moment is to vaccinate those most at risk of dying or suffering badly from covid-19, in order to save as many lives as possible and ease pressure on the NHS (which enables it to ensure non-covid treatments can continue). 

The national Vaccine Delivery Plan has been published, which you can read HERE which sets out the Government’s plan to ensure the most vulnerable are vaccinated.

Last week I spoke in the Commons debate on the new measures, to praise the resilience of the people of Northumberland and to thank the incredible efforts by our local teams.  You can watch the speech HERE or read the text HERE

Much is being made of how well the UK is doing in comparison to other nations in rolling out this vaccine.  This is a race, but it is a race against the virus. It is a race we should want every nation to win. Many people have asked me how to access the statistics for global vaccinations.  You can do so HERE. 

Volunteering
So much of the current success of the vaccine rollout is thanks to people giving up their time freely to help their communities. Not only our wonderful doctors and nurses, but others who have stepped forward to play their part. 

There are many ways in which you can volunteer to help:You can sign up to train to be a vaccinator via St John Ambulance (DBS check required) HERETo help the vaccination effort in other ways, for example as a steward (no DBS check required) click HERE.To assist those who are shielding or self-isolating with medicines and groceries (no DBS check required) click HERE.Thank you so much to everyone who has given their time to help with this mammoth effort.

Leasehold reforms
The Government has announced plans to reform the law to make it easier and cheaper for leaseholders to buy the freehold of their property and to give them the right to extend the lease to a maximum term of 990 years at zero ground rent. At present, one in five properties in England and Wales are leasehold, including a great many in Northumberland. You can read more about the proposals – based on recommendations by the Law Commission – HERE

Laptops and remote learning for pupils
There is information for schools on ordering extra laptops for children to learn remotely HERE.  Most I have spoken to have already done so. 

Northern Powerhouse Partnership are working with partners at Northumbrian Water, The Chronicle Newspaper, Rebuyer and WANdisco to launch Laptops for Kids North East. They are asking businesses across the North East region to donate unused laptops, PCs, tablets and chargers, which will then be professionally wiped before they are distributed out to families in need. The Local Authority have been asked to draw up a list of priority schools and provide the number of devices each school would need to ensure each pupil has an appropriate device.  If you are able to donate laptops, PCs or other devices, please contact them HERE.

Northumberland County Council has secured a further 208 devices which we are refurbishing and there are still a number of devices through the North of Tyne Combined Authority funding still to be distributed.

Alternatively, this time around students can also access online learning via an Xbox or Playstation. Details of this have been shared with schools to further help pupils’ access to online learning.  

The Department for Education announced a scheme last week which will temporarily increase data allowances for mobile phone users on certain networks. This will further support children and young people to access remote education if their face-to-face education is disrupted. There is more information on that HERE

New role
Last week the Prime Minister invited me to become Energy Minister with responsibility for construction and clean growth, as well as retaining my COP26 duties.  I will be leading delivery of the UK’s Ten Point Plan for a green industrial revolution which will allow us to build the UK’s contribution to climate change.

The plan (more detail HERE) covers low carbon energy from nuclear to offshore wind, hydrogen and clean fuels for aviation and maritime. We are leading a transport revolution in electric vehicles, hydrogen buses and public transport; this will mobilise £12 billion of Government investment across these tech sectors as well as the transformation and increasing efficiency of energy use in all our homes. It will support and create up to 250,000 jobs. The plan includes commitments such as ending the sale of new diesel or petrol vehicles by 2030, planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year, investing an extra £200 million in carbon capture technology and providing up to £500 million to trial homes using hydrogen for heating and cooking. 

This comes on top of the work which is already underway, including the Green Homes Grant scheme, which is estimated to result in improving the energy efficiency of 650,000 homes in the next couple of years. I know many Northumberland residents have already taken advantage of this grant and would encourage anyone eligible to apply.

DISPATCHES FROM THE FRONT!

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Peter Worlock provides us with some background to the current Covid situation.

Although my ‘day job’ is as an Orthopaedic Trauma Surgeon at the RVI, I am Clinical Director of Musculo-skeletal Services for the Newcastle Hospitals and have been heavily involved in managing the Newcastle hospitals response to Covid since last February. I cannot speak in detail about what is happening in the Northumbria and Gateshead NHS Trusts, but from talking to colleagues there I know they face similar problems to us in Newcastle.

Since late November, the number of patients with positive Covid tests (in both the city and the county) has been increasing rapidly and that increase has been particularly marked since mid-December. It is important to note that approximately 30% of people with Covid will have no symptoms. Most of these do not enter the testing programme, but they are still infectious. The situation has been made worse by the appearance of a mutation of the virus, which first appeared in SE England in late November/early December. This is now widespread throughout the UK. It is approximately 50% – 70% more transmissible that the initial virus, but the data so far does not suggest that it leads to more severe symptoms or cause more deaths. On the 30 December 2020, there were 36 Covid patients in the Newcastle hospitals. By the 6 January 2021, the number had risen to over 120 and is still rising.

During the winter months, the NHS is always under pressure from emergency admissions for stroke, heart disease and respiratory disease. This ‘winter surge’ began earlier and is much greater than normal this year, for reasons that are not immediately clear (the number of influenza cases remains low because of the higher than normal take-up of the influenza vaccine). There is now the ‘perfect storm’ of a bigger winter surge and the increasing Covid admissions. To create ITU and ward beds to deal with this, we have had to convert surgical wards to medical wards. ITU nurses are highly skilled and we have had to re-deploy anaesthetic and theatre nurses (who already have some of these skills) to staff these additional ITU beds. The lack of surgical beds and of operating theatre staff means we can only do a limited amount of in-patient surgery and the Newcastle hospitals have made investigating and treating cancer patients the main priority, as well as maintaining the emergency surgery service.

It usually takes 10 – 14 days from inoculation with the virus before symptoms develop (if symptoms are going to develop). During the second half of this incubation period, the patient is infectious and can transmit the virus to contacts. After symptoms develop, most patients recover over a 7 – 14 day period (and are infectious until symptoms have resolved). If the disease progresses and hospital admission is required, this usually occurs 7 – 14 days after the onset of symptoms. Of those who do not recover, the peak in the death rate is a further 10 – 14 days later. It is this natural history of the disease that leads to the ‘lag time’ of the effect of any intervention. It will be at least another week from now before we see any effect of the national lockdown, that started last week, on the number of positive tests, another three weeks or so before we start to see an effect on the number of hospital admissions and another 5 – 6 weeks before we see any effect on the death rate.

The ‘Get it right first time’ (GIRFT) group at the Department of Health has just produced its report on the best ways to treat patients with Covid in a hospital environment, after evaluating the data from the first wave. All UK hospitals will be ensuring they follow the best practice laid down. One of the striking things is that the main risk factors (in respect of the risk of dying from Covid) are increasing age, being male, obesity, diabetes, pre-existing dementia, severe liver disease and concurrent cancer. It was certainly our experience in Newcastle during the first wave that the majority of deaths occurred in patients with pre-existing health problems.

The virus spreads by contact between individuals. It can transmit either by droplets (aerosol) from the mouth and nose of a person with Covid landing directly on the mucus membranes (eyes, nose, mouth) of another individual or by the virus contaminating a surface, where it is then picked up on the hands of another person. If that individual then touches either their eye or their nose or their mouth with a contaminated hand, the virus can enter the body. This is the rationale for the ‘hands/face/space’ strategy. We know that frequent hand washing, using a face mask and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people reduces transmission rates. Within the hospital, staff have to go to work and there are Covid patients on some wards. On the Covid wards, full PPE is used. However, within the rest of the Newcastle hospitals we have maintained very low Covid transmission rates (reported as being amongst the lowest within UK teaching hospitals) by using that basic infection control policy. ‘Hands/face/space’ works, but has to be accompanied by restricting the contacts between individuals as much as possible – the data from throughout the UK shows that most transmission is within the home. You only need one positive individual to come into that household for as little as 15 minutes for transmission to occur throughout that household. The other key step in controlling spread of the virus, therefore, is not meeting with other people unless it is absolutely essential.

Whilst a successful vaccination programme is the long-term way out of this, it is a complex programme to organise and deliver. Whatever vaccine is used, two doses must be given to each individual. There are 65 million people living in the UK and even to offer vaccination to everyone over 18 years of age will need to 100 million vaccinations. The UK Government has ordered 120 million doses of vaccine. However, even if we manage to inoculate 2 million people a week (which will be no mean feat) it will take 50 weeks to vaccinate everyone in the UK over the age of 18 years. We will need to vaccinate 70% – 80% of the population, before there is ‘herd immunity’ within the population, so as to minimise spread. When offered vaccination, it is really important that everyone takes up that offer (whichever vaccine is on offer). Covid is never going to go away, but a mass vaccination programme (probably repeated regularly) is going to be the only way to maintain long-term control. Until the initial mass vaccination programme is completed, later this year, we have to maintain the infection control measures that are in place: ‘hands/face/space’ and meet with as few people as possible (including not mixing with members of your family who live in other households).

Your local hospitals are under huge pressure. As well as dealing with the Covid pandemic, we still have to deal with other medical and surgical emergencies, provide maternity care, treat trauma admissions and provide comprehensive cancer care. At one point last week, a 999 ambulance was arriving at the RVI Emergency Department every 1 – 2 minutes and ED came close to being overwhelmed.

Please help us to help you by following the rules.

Thank you.

Peter Worlock

COVID VACCINATIONS IN THE BERWICK AREA

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This information comes from the Well Close Surgery, Berwick.

 
All 5 the surgeries below are working out of Well Close.
 
  • Well Close, Berwick
  • Union Brae, Berwick
  • Belford Medical Group
  • Glendale Surgery, Wooler
  • Cheviot Medical Group, Wooler.
 
 
Patients are being contacted by their own Surgeries and  people from Lowick have already been vaccinated. 
 
Please ask for people not to contact the surgeries themselves, when it’s their turn they will be approached.
 

Covid Vaccinations – Patient Update

Last week, our practices began administering the Covid-19 vaccination to our highest priority group of patients. We successfully vaccinated over 3000 people aged 80+, as well as health and social care staff and local frontline health workers.

On New Year’s Eve, we were notified that we would receive a further delivery of vaccines to administer on the 7th and 8th of January. Our practice teams are working tirelessly (and have been over the New Year period) to book almost 5000 more appointments across our network.

We would like to thank every single patient who has supported our practice teams whilst we deliver vaccinations to the most vulnerable members of our community. We have been inundated with positive feedback from the first vaccinations last week – Thank you!

We have, however, been presented with some demoralising and derogatory comments across social media pages from within our network area too. Doctors, nurses, admin staff, and every single member of our practice teams are working longer and more intensely than ever before to ensure our local patient population is vaccinated. Your local healthcare teams are entirely committed to protecting you. Please show them compassion as they try to achieve this.

Lots of work happens behind the scenes to ensure vaccines are being administered as safely and effectively as possible – here are some key facts that might help you understand the vaccination process:

Vaccine Deliveries

• Vaccine deliveries are organised nationally and the rules for operating vaccination sites are set nationally.

• We are operating vaccination hubs because of the practical difficulties around the Pfizer vaccine.

• We have no control over what we receive nor when it comes.

• We are given up to a week’s notice about our next delivery but often less.

• We cannot book patients for appointments on the day of delivery due to the uncertainty around deliveries.

Vaccines

• We have only had deliveries of the Pfizer Vaccine so far. It has a very short shelf life, needs to be stored at extreme temperatures before delivery and is very fragile. We cannot move the Pfizer vaccine from hub locations except to take small amounts to care homes close by following very difficult rules about that transfer. Pfizer vaccinations are administered within two days after delivery to prevent any wastage.

• The AstraZeneca (Oxford) Vaccine is planned to be delivered in small quantities from Friday 8th January. This will be initially be used for patients and staff in care homes within the more rural locations in our network area. The AstraZeneca vaccine has a shelf life of up to six months, and is much more stable when being transported – it will therefore offer considerably more flexibility for appointment times and locations once we can get sufficient amounts.

“Normal GP Services”

In order to provide a vaccination service of such scale, staff working within GP Practices are currently supporting the vaccination process. Your practice will still be open, although may be operating at reduced capacity or an urgent only service. Well Up North has been collating a database of healthcare professionals to support the vaccination process who will be able to support practice teams moving forward.

Hub Sites

Most primary care networks within England have a single vaccination hub site. Well Up North managed to secure three sites for our locality and so we are vaccinating three times as many patients as other networks. This has been a hugely challenging task to deliver, and will continue to be – but we are committed to ensuring our population have access to vaccinations at the fastest pace possible.  

Vaccine Priority Groups

The JCVI (joint committee for vaccinations and immunisations) set the order of priority for vaccinations. We are required to follow their advice. Information on the vaccine priority groups can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/priority-groups-for-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-advice-from-the-jcvi-30-december-2020/joint-committee-on-vaccination-and-immunisation-advice-on-priority-groups-for-covid-19-vaccination-30-december-2020

Second doses

Both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines require a second dose.

On the 30th December, The Chief Medical Officers from all four UK nations announced that the interval for second doses should be extended from around three weeks to up to twelve weeks. Patients who had already been given a date for their second dose can therefore expect to be contacted to rearrange that date once we have been advised of the new dates ourselves.

Thank you for supporting Well Up North

Further Information

Here is an update from Wooler.