Feature article

Covid-19 The fight to protect lives

 

Saving lives and protecting the people of Kent and Medway in the midst of the largest health emergency in 100 years, have been key drivers behind Kent Resilience Forum’s (KRF) coordinated response to Covid-19 pandemic. We know that the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over, with the risk to life is still very present. This month we reflect on KRF’s response so far, and look at some of the challenges ahead.

A ‘locked-down’ response and the rise of the MAIC

When the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Kent, KRF's established response framework and a well-rehearsed command and control structure was ready to stand up. The national lockdown that soon followed required partners navigate to a new, remote working environment that was less familiar to most, with much achieved on a scale and pace of change not seen before in the public sector.

As well as the strategic coordinating group (SCG) and tactical coordinating group (TCG), seven other KRF response cells were formed with representation from across the partnership and the Kent Resilience Team (KRT) providing tactical support. These cells were vulnerable people and communities; health and social care; the death management process group; supply chain and logistics (personal protective equipment (PPE)); programme and resources cell; media and communications and a new multi-agency information cell (MAIC).

The MAIC was introduced as a result of learning from previous emergency responses and exercises, to manage the flow and collation of information to support the other cells and produce the common operating picture (COP), a key part of the reporting process. The vital role of the MAIC has been recognised by all partners, including Government. The KRT continues to identify ways to support the demands of response, for example, in coordinating a multi-agency Covid-19 analytical group, to provide meaningful data analysis and get a clearer picture of emerging issues going forward.

 

Kent and Medway together

 

Drawing on collective resources and expertise, cells found workable solutions to help protect those most at risk and manage the wide-spread impacts of the disease as much as possible. The rapid response at district and borough level to develop community hubs in support of shielded and vulnerable residents, alongside local parishes, community groups and an army of volunteers from communities and across Kent and Medway, is an outstanding example of what can achieved at pace in times of need and testimony to the hard work and dedication of all those involved.

The value of strong multi-agency collaboration can also been seen in KRF health and social care cell, co-chaired by the directors of public health for KCC and Medway Council, as we navigate the many ongoing challenges of the Covid-19 public health crisis.

Leading on local outbreaks

 

As the national “lockdown” is eased, Government has been clear that the management of any local disease outbreaks will be the responsibility of upper tier local authorities and, in particular, their public health function. The health and social care cell is fully engaged with this responsibility and has prepared an outbreak control plan. Contact tracing, a core skill for our borough and district council partners, will be a critical aspect of the plan. All of the KRF partners stand ready to act when appropriate, in accordance with the established response framework and in line with this plan. The plan can be found here: https://www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health/coronavirus/protect-kent/outbreak-control.

Getting it ‘right’

 

We cannot forget the sheer scale of this crisis and the tragic loss of life for many of our most vulnerable residents, and it is inevitable that lessons also need to be learnt going forward. A project underway with the Universities of Kent and Loughborough, coordinated by the KRT, will identify lessons and implement learning quickly in preparation for possible future waves of disease, while also looking at the longer term, more structural improvements that can be introduced. KRF members are also participating in national work to learn lessons and members will also be conducting their own de-briefing.

 

There are many ‘unknowns’ ahead, but the Covid-19 recovery strategy set out by the KRF Recovery Coordinating Group sets out the short, medium and long terms work by KRF partners to mitigate the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic on the Kent and Medway. 

One thing is certain, that the principals of collaboration within the KRF will remain strong, and the KRT will provide essential support to enable partner organisations to deliver their best response.

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Kent Resilience Forum

Kent Fire and Rescue Service HQ

The Godlands

Straw Mill Hill

Tovil, Maidstone ME15 6XB