May 30, 2023
Our response to COVID-19: Stepping down from NHS level three incident
A letter from Rob Webster, CEO-Lead for West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership and Chief Executive Officer, NHS West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board
On 18 May the Board of NHS England announced that the NHS would be stepping down from its level three incident (regionally led) response to COVID-19. This came one year after the national level four incident was stepped down and follows The World Health Organisation’s recent announcement that COVID-19 is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
This is an important set of milestones and is good news for all of us. I wanted to make sure that we reflected on what we have achieved together; and what you have lived through and overcome.
Thank you to every one who has worked in every organisation in our West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership (WY HCP) over the last three years. Over 100,000 staff, the estimated 150,000 volunteers and 400,000 informal carers have contributed. Thank you for all your incredible efforts to respond to the pandemic and for the work you do every day to support the 2.4 million people living across our area. Our Partnership of the NHS, councils, social care, community care providers, hospices, the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, Healthwatch and communities is a testimony to the best of public service.
Your commitment to making a difference embodies our Partnership’s ethos of working together to improve the lives of people and communities and finding ways to address issues, to do things differently, and make continuous improvement.
You have done so in the most challenging circumstances we have faced in our working lives, often at personal risk to your own wellbeing.
Many of you stepped outside your daily roles during the pandemic, demonstrating flexibility and willingness to deliver care best suited to people and communities by constantly breaking down hurdles and barriers.
This approach was evident when handling the multiple waves of the pandemic faced to date. Our Partnership made a difference in many key areas, including the sourcing and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, the introduction and coordination of mass COVID-19 testing, supporting over 100,000 vulnerable people through shielding, and rolling out the vaccination programme with primary care and volunteer support. We prioritised vaccinations for carers and rapidly stepped up The NHS Nightingale Hospital Yorkshire and the Humber, delivered “hot” and “cold” sites in care settings, stepped up bereavement support, mental health crisis lines, and delivered new COVID-19 treatment services.
All of this is down to you, only you. And it would be easy to forget at this distance the fear of the unknown and the sheer courage that was on display during the early part of the pandemic. We will not forget and nor should we.
I am very proud that through all this vital work, and via our approach to the recovery of our health and care services, we have sought to address health inequalities and prioritise the needs of the most disadvantaged groups of people. I am particularly proud of the review we commissioned into the impact of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and colleagues. Delivering the recommendations from this review to tackle health inequalities affecting these groups remains a priority for our Partnership, as well as addressing the inequalities for people with learning disabilities. Award winning work in organisations like Mid Yorkshire Teaching NHS Trust and Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust is now setting the standard.
The end of the level three incident and the global health emergency are worth noting. It remains important to remember that we continue to live with COVID-19 and that there are still around 100 COVID-19 positive patients in West Yorkshire hospitals as I write. The serious health consequences of COVID-19 on some people living in West Yorkshire cannot be underestimated. We will always urge everyone eligible for a vaccine to take up the opportunity when offered.
We continue to move forward with our recovery from the pandemic, tackling inequalities and backlogs of care and treatment in all sectors, addressing the challenges of mental health and wellbeing, workforce recruitment and retention, and managing financial pressures across our Partnership. I know many of you continue to go above and beyond what is expected, day in, day out.
We have a strap line here that we are “Proud to be part of the West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership”. At this important time, I wanted to say how proud I am to work alongside all of you.
Rob Webster CBE
CEO-Lead, West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership
CEO for NHS West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board