COVID-19: The ‘fortunate’ NHS Trust where no staff have been lost to the virus

An installation thanking the local NHS in Roman Road, in Tower Hamlets Pic: East London NHS Foundation Trust

COVID AND THE CITY: At a crucial moment in the fight against the pandemic, after lockdown and before mass vaccination, Eastlondonlines is examining the toll of the virus on our boroughs. Here Scarlett Sherriff looks at the health trust where, despite the high risks, none of its employees have died from the virus

While NHS workers across the nation have fallen victim to the virus, one local trust has succeeded in ensuring that no staff have died during the first and second waves of the pandemic.

East London NHS Foundation Trust, which covers Tower Hamlets and other areas of East London and specialises in mental health, said although several workers did spend time in intensive care after contracting Covid-19, “they all have come out the other side”. 

Tower Hamlets has the highest rate of Covid-19 , among the areas covered by Eastlondonlines. It has the sixth highest rate of Covid-19 in London and are above average for England as of December 1. Half of its staff fall into high risk categories.

The organisation said given that staff had been in intensive care: “With 50% of our staff BAME and high risk, we feel very fortunate.” Nationally, even after taking into account factors such as age, social demographic, and self-reported health and disability, a May ONS report found “the risk of death involving the coronavirus (COVID-19) among some ethnic groups is significantly higher than that of those of White ethnicity”.

Hundreds of NHS workers have died with Covid-19 across the country.

Pic: East London NHS Foundation Trust

A concern is that, even in December, as the Tower Hamlets council states: “these cases still tend to be highest around a central belt of the borough, consistent with a band of deprivation, with Poplar and Shadwell having some of the highest rates”.

Several of the Trust’s main sites are in areas of Tower Hamlets where the spread of Covid-19 is concentrated, for example their site The Tower Hamlets Centre for Mental Health based within Mile End Hospital (where they work with Bart’s NHS Trust, which sadly has had several staff deaths)

The Trust also deals with vulnerable groups such as homeless people, who are served by one of the trust’s Hackney surgeries Greenhouse GP Primary Care Services.

Keeping staff safe

ELFT have worked to ensure the safety of their staff with initiatives such as Health MOTs. These include height, weight, BMI, blood pressure and mental wellbeing checks. These help identify more vulnerable members of staff.

For NHS staff, infection control and tackling the spread of Covid-19 continue to be high on their priority list during the second wave of the Covid 19 pandemic. During National Infection Control Week last month, Ruth Bradley, director of nursing at the trust said: “Infection prevention and control is everyone’s business, wherever you work across the Trust.” 

Pic: East London NHS Foundation Trust

In April, the Trust held a meeting specifically for BAME members of staff to discuss issues such as higher rates of Vitamin D deficiency, concerns over PPE, and the distress caused to communities unable to follow their traditional burial customs. 

It is clear that these measures will have to continue until a vaccine is fully rolled out and life returns to normal. 

The Trust has already put out a call-out for healthcare workers to volunteer to administer the vaccine when they receive it which they say will be ‘shortly’.

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