Flood and flu emergency planning behind schedule as leaders say no-deal Brexit preparations burning up time
Brexit preparations have left South Tyneside without up-to-date plans for dealing with ‘severe incidents’ such as floods and mass illness outbreaks, leaders have said.
Health chiefs for the borough have insisted they do still have measures in place if anything were to happen which required a major response.
But following an update on ‘health protection’ measures, they claim the time and effort taken up with preparations for the potential fallout of leaving the European Union without a proper divorce agreement has diverted attention from contingencies for other events.
“There’s not much in the report on preparedness for severe incidents or weather issues or pandemic flu, for example,” said Tom Hall, South Tyneside Council’s (STC) director of public health.
“That’s not to say we haven’t been focused on that and it’s very much on our radar, but we need to update our flu plan and look at our flood response arrangements.
“I must say though, Brexit has taken a huge amount of energy out of our emergency planning, it has drawn a lot of capacity towards thinking about our response to a [possible] no deal Brexit.
“When Brexit is out of the way we will be back to thinking about those things.”
Mr Hall was speaking at a meeting of STC’s Health and Wellbeing Board, where he updated members on the borough’s winter flu season preparations.
Flu jabs are already available and as well as focusing on giving vaccines to vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and pregnant women, health and social care workers are also prioritised to ensure ‘workforce resilience’.
Last year (2018/19) actually saw a slight decrease in the number of patients needing hospital treatment for flu, although figures ‘still reached high impact’.
Mr Hall added: “We’re trying to get to the key populations that are eligible and although it’s always something we can do better on, it’s also something we do relatively well at.
“The schools-based programme continues to improve year on year, covering the majority of South Tyneside schools and the uptake rates so far have been positive.”
The region’s A&E Delivery Board has also shared its own winter plans with the council.