Supporting older people with COVID-19: The Newcastle COVOP Report
A collaborated approach to supporting Newcastle’s older vulnerable population with COVID-19
Earlier this year health and social care organisations across Newcastle upon Tyne (Collaborative Newcastle) were focused on how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was already evidence emerging that older people, especially those living with frailty and multiple long-term conditions, were at greatest risk from this new viral infection.
Professor Avan Sayer, Consultant Geriatrician at Newcastle Hospitals, and Director of the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre, established a group with broad representation to coordinate COVID-19 activity across Newcastle, having been struck by reflections of healthcare responders in Lombardy, Italy. It was clear that support of this kind would be needed for vulnerable older people across the city, particularly from a range of local organisations and services.
The COvid Vulnerable Older People (COVOP) Action Group was established in late March 2020, co-chaired by Avan Sayer and Dr Steve Parry, Consultant Physician at Newcastle Hospitals and Clinical Director in the Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group. Other members of the group included representatives from Newcastle University, Newcastle City Council and the Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.
A key output from the Action Group was to bring together knowledge on the initiatives within each organisation; both longstanding and newly established for COVID-19. This has been a real eye-opener for members of the Group, as Richard Dodds, an Intermediate Clinical Fellow at the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre reflects:
“In my clinical work I care for older people with complex health conditions. Through COVOP I’ve gained a greater understanding of the services available across the city for the patients that I care for.”
The Action Group has also led to a new initiative to support care home residents, who are considered particularly vulnerable. So far, this has led to members of the Action Group:
- Supporting care home staff, local GPs and the existing Specialist Care Home Support Team in Newcastle by speaking to residents and their families about whether a personalised Emergency Healthcare Plan was appropriate
- Reviewing existing plans in light of COVID-19
- Responding to specific needs of local care homes, including assisting with the supply of PPE, disseminating swab results, and contributing to the visiting service set-up by local GPs.
Dr Terry Aspray, Consultant Physician at Newcastle Hospitals, who has provided senior clinical input to the project, commented:
“COVID-19 presented a considerable and immediate challenge but it was remarkable how inter-disciplinary working across health and social care quickly focused on the common goal of care for the most vulnerable in our society.”
The COVOP Report has so far highlighted a number of positive aspects to collaborative working across the city, and is now in circulation amongst relevant clinical teams across Newcastle.
Going forward, the Action Group will continue this great work to further develop an integrative approach to services for vulnerable older people across Newcastle.