Hundreds of thousands in north east London receive winter vaccinations

Nearly 220,000 people across north east London have now received flu vaccinations to help keep them well this winter, just weeks after those eligible were invited to come forward.

Local teams have also delivered nearly 100,000 seasonal Covid-19 jabs since the NHS launched its annual campaign in September to ensure those at higher risk are better protected.

More than one million people across north east London are eligible for winter flu jabs this year and more than a half a million are eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations, with efforts focusing on the over-65s, pregnant women, unpaid carers and those deemed clinically vulnerable along with their household contacts.

Latest data shows overall uptake of flu and Covid-19 jabs in north east London remains below the national average but vaccinations are now on offer at more than 175 sites across Barking and Dagenham, City of London, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest, including community pharmacies and some GP surgeries.

Local vaccination teams have also marked a major milestone – with more than four million Covid-19 jabs now delivered in NEL since the vaccine programme’s launch in 2020.

Health and care professionals are now urging everyone who is eligible to come forward as soon as possible to protect themselves this winter, particularly those aged under 65 who have a health condition that makes them more susceptible to serious illness. 

Dr Muhammad Naqvi, a Newham GP and Clinical Lead for Immunisations for NHS NEL, said:

“Delivering four million vaccinations since 2020 is a phenomenal achievement and it’s testament to the fantastic collective effort of the hundreds of doctors, staff and volunteers from health and care partners across north east London who have supported this vital work.

“Our work is far from done though. The winter vaccinations campaign is now well under way and, while we’re grateful to all those who have already come forward, we know there are many local people eligible for flu and Covid-19 jabs who are yet to have theirs. 

“Vaccinations remain our best defence against serious illness, and with infections spreading more easily as we start to spend more time indoors it’s vital all those eligible come forward for their jabs as soon as possible.

“Getting vaccinated will ensure you protect yourself and will also keep those around you safe by helping to stop these nasty viruses spreading in your local community this winter.”  

This year’s vaccination campaign was brought forward to mid-September due to the emergence of the new Covid-19 variant, known as Pirola. People living and working in care homes were the first to receive vaccinations and those in other eligible groups can now book their boosters, including frontline health and care staff.

In north east London, the NHS is working closely with local authorities and the voluntary sector to deliver targeted activity within local communities to encourage people to get vaccinated.

The Covid-19 and flu vaccines can be safely given during the same appointment and the protection they provide is the best defence against serious illness or hospitalisation this winter. The flu vaccine is also being offered to most children and is usually given as a quick, painless nasal spray. Further details on all winter vaccinations, and how to book, are available on the NHS North East London website at www.northeastlondon.icb.nhs.uk/wintervaccinations.

Black History Month: How history informs our systematic approach to tackling health inequalities in north east London

Our Chair Marie Gabriel, CBE, talks about Black History Month and her passion and commitment to reducing inequalities in health and care. 

What does Black History Month mean to you?

“I am old enough to remember when Black History Month was first established, it may seem ordinary now, but at the time it was huge, a real step forward in ensuring our history was reclaimed by us and recognised by wider society. There was a real focus on acknowledgement and honouring our contribution, which had been ignored or purposefully hidden. I believe as a month it has gone a long way to ensuring a much deeper understanding and has also enabled deeper roots for individuals and communities, because without a sense of your history how do you know who you are and where you need to go.

“This sense of history informing the future means, that how we view Black History Month has changed over time. It is right that we now expect that Black history, and its contribution is recognised every day, but it is also right that we recognise that history is being created now, and so we need to be thoughtful about how future generations will view our current actions, or indeed inaction. I do think it is still critical to have a designated month though, a time to stop and reflect and to celebrate. The celebration is so important, to have real joy and pride in all that we accomplish, every day, against some huge odds. 

What changes are you passionate about seeing for Black people in health and care in particular?

“That is a really difficult question as there is so much to improve on across access, experience and outcomes, and for both the communities we serve and the staff we employ. So, I think the change I am most passionate about begins with an understanding of, a commitment to, and clear plan of action to progress towards true equity.

“For true equity, you need an understanding of history.”

How history has led to structural inequality and discrimination so that you can identify and counteract how the history of the Black people is completely tied into the success of public service so that we can recognise and reward that contribution with fairness and justice and how history demands that we do better now. I am therefore passionate about a systemic approach that recognises how we must undertake action across the four aims of the integrated care system, in population health, in tackling health inequalities, in ensuring productivity, and in tackling wider determinants. And to take this action alongside our partners including our local communities. This is one of the reasons why I am so looking forward to our health and care System Wide Anti-Racist Workshop on 31 October, where we can take stock of how far we have come and what more we must do to serve and lead all of our people all of the time.”

Who has inspired you from history, and more recent history?

“Another question that challenges me as there as so many. I find that I am inspired so regularly by people who do amazing things as part of their every day. Recognising women, is the theme of Black History Month this year and so just thinking about that, I am inspired by one of my close friends who has made it her life’s work to support young women in care, I am inspired by the women I learnt so much from when growing up, I am inspired by colleagues who have and continue to support other Black women to succeed, I am inspired by those women who set up community responses to the challenges we face and I am inspired by women throughout history who have spoken out when it is difficult to do so, particularly those whose stories are not known…” 

Do you have any artists, musicians, writers or poets you’d recommend to help people expand their understanding of Black history?

“Keeping within this year’s theme I will focus on Black British women writers, and would recommend, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Zadie Smith, Bernardine Evaristo, Irenosen Okoje, Andrea Levy, Patience Agbabi, and a sister to read with your daughters, Malorie Blackman.”

Marie Gabriel CBE, is one of the leading NHS figures in London. She is chair of NHS North East London and North East London Health and Care Partnership, and is also the first chair of the NHS Race and Health Observatory as well as chair of NHS North East London, co-chair of the London People Board and a member of the Mayor of London’s Health Board.

Find out more about what we’re doing to tackle health inequality in north east London.

Winter planning in north east London

Winter is a time of increased pressure for people working across health and care as cold weather affects people with existing health conditions and illnesses like flu and Covid spread.

As an integrated care system, we work throughout the year to build our resilience and plan for periods of increased demand.

The challenges are complex and can only be addressed by working together across the NHS and with local authorities and the voluntary and community sector. We have been bringing key system stakeholders and leaders together to discuss what we already have in place, how we can learn from each other and where we need to strengthen our collaborative efforts.

NHS North East London is working with Place Partnerships and Collaboratives to coordinate this winter and beyond through a new clinically led and proactive system coordination centre (SCC) that involves everyone, including hospitals, GPs, LAS, community care and more.

Our approach is focused on keeping people well; helping people get the right treatments in the right place earlier; be seen more quickly in an emergency; and get home again promptly where they have had to be admitted.

We are doing this in a number of ways, including things like: helping people understand and then get to the right services for minor illnesses; vaccinating as many eligible people as possible; and improving take up of community-based interventions to ensure improved access to emergency provision for those in the greatest need.

We are working to reduce avoidable admissions to hospitals with things like more appointments in primary care and virtual wards for frailty and respiratory illnesses; and we are improving hospital patient flow, particularly around mental health admissions, ambulance handovers and better discharge pathways back into the community.

You can help support our work by supporting our communications campaign to help people access the right NHS care and directing people to https://northeastlondon.icb.nhs.uk/urgentcare and you can reshare posts from our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts.

New digital tool aims to drive maternity service equality in north east London

People using maternity services in north east London will be encouraged to play a greater role in their care with the rollout of a new digital tool designed to reduce health inequalities.      

CardMedic – an award-winning app and website system which translates common clinical conversations into different languages and formats – will be used to make care more personalised, improve communication with medical staff and boost safety.

As well as providing instant translation support in a number of different languages, CardMedic can be switched to British Sign Language and subtitles to help those who are deaf or have hearing problems, Easy Read for children or people with learning disabilities, and a ‘read aloud’ function for those with visual impairment or literacy issues.

It is also hoped this will enable maternity teams to use translation services in a more efficient way – allowing staff to act more quickly in urgent and emergency situations and overcome communication barriers at times when translators are not available.

The system has been commissioned by North East London Health and Care Partnership, the integrated care system (ICS) which covers Barking and Dagenham, the City of London, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

North east London (NEL) ICS serves a diverse and fast-growing population, with more than 250 languages spoken and 53% of residents identifying as belonging to an ethnic minority, compared to 11% across England. It also has the highest birth rate in the country.

CardMedic will initially be used to encourage uptake in maternity services to address the healthcare inequalities that exist in parts of NEL and support work to improve perinatal pelvic health among those who need extra specialist care during or after pregnancy.

It follows national reports and audits suggesting poor outcomes – particularly for those from Black, Asian and mixed ethnic backgrounds – could have been different with more accessible information, stronger communication and greater cultural awareness.

Alice Compton, Senior Project Manager for Maternity Digital and Data Transformation and a digital midwife at NEL ICS, said:

“After speaking with maternity service users in north east London and understanding their experiences, it was clear that major gaps in service provision existed, with pregnant people and families often feeling they were not being listened to by staff.

“We know improvements need to be made to ensure pregnancy and birthing experiences are equitable, personalised and culturally appropriate for everyone, so by getting it right for those who experience the poorest outcomes, we’ll get it right for everyone.

“Deploying CardMedic will help us address this – giving service users the opportunity to play an active role in their care and reassuring clinicians that they are delivering the same care standards to all their patients, irrespective of their language or background.”

Dr Rachael Grimaldi, Co-Founder and Chief Executive, CardMedic, said:

“Everyone has the right to access healthcare, and communication barriers should never stand in people’s way. We’re proud to be a part of NEL ICS’s journey in reducing health inequalities, improving communication between healthcare staff and families, and making care more accessible for all.”

CardMedic will be available through hospital services in NEL ICS by late summer, including maternity units and maternity clinics run by Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, Barts Health NHS Trust and Homerton Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. The feedback gathered from maternity service users in north east London and their families has been used to produce a strategy and action plan which aims to improve equity and equality for pregnant women so services better meet the needs of those who use them. The full report can be read on the NHS North East London website here.

People in north east London urged to protect themselves against winter viruses

Doctors in north east London are urging those most at risk from Covid-19 and flu to ensure they are fully protected against the viruses as the NHS starts its vaccination campaign.

The two vaccines can be safely given during the same appointment and the protection they provide is the best defence against serious illness or hospitalisation this winter. 

Millions of people in England are now eligible for both jabs, including anyone aged over 65, pregnant women, care home residents, frontline health and care staff and unpaid carers. Those deemed clinically at risk, and their household contacts, will also be able to receive them.

People living and working in care homes have already started to receive their vaccinations and people in other eligible groups can book their Covid-19 booster jab from Monday 18 September, with appointments available from Tuesday 19 September.

This year’s vaccination campaign has been brought forward due to the emergence of the new BA.2.86 variant, (also known as Pirola) to help ensure those at higher risk are better protected.

The flu vaccine is also being offered to most children from this month (September) and this is usually given as a quick and painless spray up the nose.

Further details on all winter vaccinations, and how to book, are available on the NHS North East London website at www.northeastlondon.icb.nhs.uk/wintervaccinations.

Dr Muhammad Naqvi, a Newham GP and Clinical Lead for immunisations for NHS North East London, said:

“For people most at risk from Covid-19 and flu, getting vaccinated is the best way of protecting yourself and avoiding serious illness.

“These vaccines have kept tens of thousands of people out of hospital and helped to save countless lives over the last few years. Being vaccinated will also help keep your family and friends safe by helping to stop diseases spreading in your local community.”

Last autumn, data showed that those who received a Covid-19 booster were around 53% less likely to be admitted to hospital with the virus within two to four weeks following vaccination compared to those who did not receive a booster jab.

Diane Jones, Chief Nursing Officer for NHS North East London, said:

“Vaccinations are our best defence against Covid-19 and flu, and it’s vital all those eligible are protected as the new covid variant has the potential to increase the risk of infection.

“By coming forward for both jabs as soon as you are eligible you will be giving yourself and those around you maximum protection from these nasty viruses this winter”.

Help us shape end of life and palliative care across north east London

Care and support for people at the end of life needs to be delivered with compassion and care.

We are inviting those with experience of end of life or palliative care to give their views. This may be from their own personal experience, their experiences caring for a family member, or from a bereavement in the last year. This may include children, young people, as well as adults.

The aim is to further understand the things that help and the things that don’t, so that we can make services more sensitive to people’s differing needs, cultures and circumstances.

We appreciate that this may be a very difficult time but this input will help us put the right support in place.

Please complete our online survey which is open to anyone living in Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, City of London and Hackney.

The online survey will close on 9 October. Paper based surveys are also available from the main libraries and Age UK offices in north east London.

Your views will be analysed anonymously. If you have any questions or you need the survey in a different format please email nelondonicb.nelcommunications@nhs.net or call us on 020 8221 5500.

Proposed changes to ophthalmology surgery in North Central London

The NHS in North Central London (NCL) has developed proposals which will allow an estimated additional 3,000 eye (ophthalmology) surgery procedures to take place a year and reduce waits for sight saving surgery for some patients by up to four weeks.

You can read about the proposals on NCL’s website or download a short information leaflet.

Patients, the public, and partners are invited to share their views on the proposed changes and to feedback on how the NHS can provide the best possible experience for all patients, if implemented. This includes residents of North Central London and neighbouring areas who may choose to use hospital services in NCL. 

The NHS would particularly like to hear from anyone who has current or recent experience of eye surgery services, or anyone who may need these services in future, and their families and carers

Ways to feedback include:

The opportunity to give feedback runs until 16 October 2023.

New health and care centre taking shape in Ilford

A brand-new health and care centre is taking shape in the heart of Ilford.

Work started in January on the new centre – earmarked for two floors in Ilford Exchange shopping complex – and last week local NHS leaders were given a tour of the site, where construction teams are currently fitting out the clinical rooms, waiting area and reception.

Designed to act as a ‘one stop shop’ providing easy access to a range of healthcare, social care and community services in a single central location, the Ilford Exchange Health Centre will create extra capacity for GP services to meet growing local demand.

It will also offer blood testing and podiatry services, care for people with long term conditions, mental health support, children’s services and adult social care.

During a site visit, Zina Etheridge, Chief Executive Officer at NHS North East London (NHS NEL), and Matthew Trainer, Chief Executive at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, were among NHS leaders updated on the project’s progress.

Also among the group was, Tracy Rubery, Director of Partnership, Impact and Delivery: Redbridge at NHS North East London, who said: “It was great to see that this fantastic new centre is now taking shape after months of planning and consultation with local people.

“Providing a range of health and care services in one place, right in the heart of the community, will make an enormous difference to so many people’s lives both now and in the future. It will be a huge asset to people in Ilford and the surrounding area.”

Last year, nearly 1,000 people took part in a public consultation on the centre with the vast majority backing the plans. The feedback received has been carefully considered by NHS North East London, NELFT NHS Foundation Trust and the London Borough of Redbridge, in close collaboration with other organisations which are all working together as part of the Redbridge Place-Based Partnership to ensure the new centre meets local needs.

Following a public vote in July, people in Redbridge chose Ilford Exchange Health Centre as their preferred name for the new centre from a shortlist of seven. Over the coming weeks, construction teams will continue to progress the works and the centre is expected to open in spring 2024.

Community groups receive £70,000 to help people with Long Covid in City of London and Hackney

Specialist NHS help is available for people with Long Covid in City and Hackney and across north east London.

Community groups across Hackney and the City of London have been awarded a total of £70,000 to help people living with Long Covid make a full and lasting recovery.

The funding is designed to empower local voluntary sector organisations to raise public awareness about Long Covid and its symptoms, signpost people to the support available to them and promote self-advocacy among the affected communities. One of the key aims is to encourage those who think they have lasting effects from COVID-19 to seek help from their GP and request referral to the specialist NHS post-Covid service. This will ensure they can be fully assessed and receive the necessary rehabilitation support.

A spokesperson for Hoxton Health, one of the seven groups to receive grants worth up to £10,000, said:

“We hope to use this funding to help older members of the community we work closely with be more aware of Long Covid as a condition.

“There are still many residents in City and Hackney who are suffering from the symptoms of Long Covid and are unaware of the support available.

“We hope to play our part in ensuring residents are better informed about the condition and know where to get the support they need.”

Dr Stephanie Coughlin, a local GP and Clinical Director, City & Hackney Place Based Partnership, said:

“If you have symptoms of Long Covid, you may find there is an impact on your day-to-day activities, including the ability to work, which directly affects your quality of life. Therefore, it’s important to get the support you need.

“My advice for anyone who suspects they may have Long Covid would be to go and see your GP so you can be checked out. They will do a range of tests to see if the symptoms can be explained by any other illnesses or conditions.

“If these can be ruled out, you may be referred to our local Long Covid services where you can get the right physical and mental health support.”

City and Hackney Covid Rehabilitation (CoRe) service has undertaken substantial work over the past year to understand the potential unmet need for specialist support among local people living with Long Covid, particularly within under-represented communities.

The service is keen to raise awareness of the condition, the impact of associated symptoms and the ways those affected most can access the support they need.

The funding, awarded to seven local organisations, was secured by the CoRe service and Homerton Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s fundraising department from NHS Charities Together to build community partnerships within the voluntary sector focusing on Long Covid.

Long Covid is defined by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence as “signs and symptoms that develop during or after an infection consistent with COVID-19 and continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis”.

Symptoms can vary from person to person and may fluctuate over time. They include:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle ache
  • Difficulty concentrating/memory loss/confusion
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Headache
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Worry/anxiety
  • Fast heart rate

Specialist NHS help is available for people with Long Covid in Hackney and the City of London. For more information on Long Covid and the support available locally, read or download the leaflet on the Homerton Hospital website.

North east London launches a new website to help patients manage their health and wellbeing

Patients in north east London will benefit from a new website that provides useful information and links to local and national resources to help them manage their own health and wellbeing. 

The new ‘Wait well, Stay well.’ website is designed to provide useful information and links to local and national resources to help people manage their own health and wellbeing while they wait for hospital treatment

Andrew Lappin, deputy head of elective recovery at NHS north east London said: “We recognised that the Covid-19 pandemic meant that some operations were postponed or delayed and waiting times increased.   While everyone in north east London and the wider NHS is working hard to reduce the backlog, we also wanted to think about other ways to support patients. 

“We have worked with colleagues across north east London and developed a new website aimed at people waiting for hospital treatment and includes local information to support them while they are waiting.”

The new website provides:

  • Answers to questions patients might have about their treatment
  • Guidance on current waiting times at local hospitals
  • Advice for staying well mentally and physically while people wait for an appointment
  • Help to prepare for the procedure itself
  • Links to other local and national resources

Morag Harvey, deputy director of planned care said: ‘This is an important resource for patients and residents and a good example of collaboration between NHS north east London and our  Trust partners.  We will continue to work together to ensure the information remains up to date and new resources are added.”

Please access the ‘Wait well, Stay well’ website for further information.