Toughest shift yet by Vicky Irons

Toughest shift yet by Vicky Irons

Toughest shift yet by Vicky Irons


24th April 2020

I started as Chief Officer in Dundee on 1 February while maintaining my role as Chair of @HSCScotland. Little did I know that within two weeks the emergence of COVID-19 would result in a huge wave of anxiety and demand across our communities. Some suggested this was the right job at the wrong time. It became clear to me this was the right job at exactly the right time.

In the earliest days of the pandemic, in Dundee and across Scotland, we saw a huge surge of demand in primary care. We also saw early clusters of frontline practitioners with COVID-19 symptoms. Without hesitation our teams established assessment and treatment hubs (well before this was part of national thinking) and came together to provide mutual support to other teams in difficulty. In the first weekend we experienced an increase in demand of 700% for primary care out of hours services.

As part of the national effort to safeguard our acute services for the future wave of expected demand, HSCPs set out mobilisation plans aiming to further reduce the numbers of people waiting to leave hospital for home or homely settings. With coordinated effort from all health and social care partners we’ve secured a significant change and substantial reduction across Scotland, ensuring acute inpatient services are available for those who need them most.

But our pandemic plans and the role of HSCPs is about more than people delayed in hospital.

The main strength of partnership is now fully in play. We're ensuring coordinated support to all our community responses and enabling people to access care, treatment and support in their own communities. Alongside, we've been busy building on existing ‘Community First’ approaches, including:

  • securing care at home sustainability
  • supporting care homes
  • developing primary care responses and infrastructure through community hubs
  • establishing community testing services for all health and social care staff, and for residents in community settings
  • collaborating with partners to develop new pathways in care
  • working with IT teams, ensuring digital technology is in place to enable care and treatment to people in any setting
  • developing distribution hubs with local authorities for essential supplies and PPE
  • working with communities and the third sector to ensure care and support is available to those who are vulnerable and need our help the most
  • engaging with Local Authorities and NHS Boards, helping to redeploy teams at scale to support risks emerging in community based services
  • retraining hundreds of people to provide transport, and care and support to people in their own homes

Above all, HSCPs are holding the anxiety of local people, ourselves and each other.

The outstanding dedication and exemplary efforts of health and social workers is both humbling and laudedable. The response of our local integrated teams across Scotland, and the national group of Chief Officers, has been nothing short of phenomenal. On our daily calls, the Chief Officer unique line of sight highlights immense resilience and impressive innovation, as well as an unceasing capability to do the right thing.

So, this may be our toughest shift yet – but I’m very glad we are here and present to lead the way through.

Vicky Irons is Chief Officer Dundee City Health and Social Care Partnership and Chair of Health and Social Care Scotland


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