Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) is one of six organisations across Newcastle upon Tyne to come together to address the needs of vulnerable older people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Made up of CNTW, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NuTH), NIHR, Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre, Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group, Newcastle City Council and Newcastle University, the COvid Vulnerable Older People (COVOP) action group aimed to reduce the impact of the pandemic on older people across the city.
Over four meetings in April and May led by Professor Avan Sayer, Director of the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), the group brought together individuals from across health and social care, primary and secondary care, physical and mental health, and clinical and academic medicine for a truly collaborative approach.
Professor Avan Sayer said: “It was clear that organisations operating alone are not able to respond to the pandemic in the best possible way and that therefore we needed to be part of a coordinated response.
“We are fortunate in Newcastle to have a vibrant, multi-organisational community dedicated to the care and support of vulnerable older people. The work from all organisations has been invaluable and we hope to be able to continue this collaborative working post-pandemic.”
A range of initiatives have been developed as part of the action group, all with a common goal of supporting the most vulnerable older people. For example, Newcastle CCG devised a Home Wellness and Fitness Plan, an innovative home exercise programme for older people to prevent deconditioning due to reduced activity and social contact, and two junior doctors from NuTH created a guide on how to support and manage older patients with coronavirus.
Work has also been done with care homes, supporting with equipment and PPE needs and the setting up of a staffing support hub to address staff shortages, and Newcastle City Council launched its CityLife Line, a partnership between the council, Connected Voice and the Voluntary and Community Sector, which offers volunteers to help those in need.
Dr Stuart McKirdy (@drstuartmckirdy), Consultant in Old Age Psychiatry at CNTW, said: “It has been a pleasure to be involved in this group. We have demonstrated the importance of working together across organisations to try and improve the health and wellbeing of vulnerable older people in Newcastle.
“As part of the group, CNTW and NuTH have worked brilliantly together, advising and supporting one another during an incredibly challenging time for the NHS.”
CNTW’s Medical Education Department created inpatient and community guidelines which have been updated regularly and the Trust’s Memory Assessment and Management Service (MAMS) has written a telephone protocol for wellbeing checks.
Thanks to the initial success of the group, there are plans to continue in the longer term. Areas that have been highlighted for further development in the future include coordinated service for care homes, community mental health support for vulnerable older people, increased involvement of the voluntary sector and ongoing participation in research.
Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust is a provider of mental health and disability services.
The group wrote a joint report which can be accessed here
AGE Research Group @NewcastleAGE
NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre @NIHRNewcBRC