Virtual September Board – round up

Members of the public were invited to take part in West Essex CCGs September Board virtually, in a meeting chaired by Dr Rob Gerlis.

The committee officially welcomed its new attendee, Cllr John Moran, Essex County Council’s Deputy Cabinet Member responsible for health and social care. Cllr Moran joined the Board recently after the sad loss of long serving Board member, Cllr Terry Cutmore, who remains much missed.

Rob said: “We formally welcome John today but also remember Cllr Terry Cutmore, who served on the Board with us for a number of years and who sadly passed away this year.”

The meeting was also shown a moving video featuring a 10-year-old mental health ambassador who spoke about her own experiences in a bid to raise awareness.

Chloe, whose sister was born with NFI (Neurofibromatosis) type 1, was referred for play therapy and talked about how she had become a young ambassador for Essex Healthwatch following a relapse of her condition brought on by the recent challenges of COVID-19.

The video is available to watch online.

The effect of the pandemic on mental health formed a large part of discussions at the meeting, which also focused on a report produced by Essex County Council about the challenges which may face people in months ahead, including the increasing risk of health inequalities.

The Board also reflected on how the past few months had affected patients, staff and those working within the health and social care sectors, with Board clinicians relaying their experiences and the impact on colleagues delivering a variety of roles in practices.

Members discussed the on-going plans for the new building for the Princess Alexandra Hospital receiving feedback and questions from the public.

It heard sickness rates among staff are currently low and there are plans to bring in mandatory unconscious bias training. Focus was also directed on the mental health of the workforce, including developing the role of mental health first aiders.

The ways in which the CCG is continually working together with other stakeholders, including District Councils and the County Council to have a more integrated approach to healthcare, was also shared.

The Board meeting in public will next take place on Thursday 26 November, 2020.  The Board papers and joining details will be shared on the West Essex CCG website closer to the date.

Concerned about Coronavirus? COVID-19 advice from West Essex CCG

Concerned about Coronavirus? COVID-19 advice from West Essex CCG


As we enter the winter months there will be many questions about common dilemmas facing people concerned about COVID-19.

Subjects tackled include advice on how to tell the difference between the symptoms of a cold and COVID-19, what to do if you can’t get a test, and sources of support and help if you have symptoms or need to self-isolate.

Rob Gerlis, Chair of West Essex CCG who is also a GP in Harlow, said: “It is understandable that people are concerned about COVID-19, what to do if they get it and protecting themselves, their family and friends from the disease, particularly now that children have gone back to school.

“We hope this Q&A will help residents across west Essex be more clear on what to do to keep themselves safe, understand the difference between a cold and COVID-19 symptoms and when they should get a test and when not to.”

The comprehensive, easy to read information will appear on the websites of local health organisations, be promoted on social media and will be shared with organisations across the county.  The advice will be updated as required.


Concerned about Coronavirus? Your questions answered

The coronavirus and protecting yourself from it

How can I protect myself from the virus?

The best ways we know to protect ourselves are by; washing your hands regularly or using sanitiser if there’s no soap and water, keeping your distance from people whenever possible, wearing a face covering where required or advised, and being alert to potential coronavirus symptoms in ourselves and others.

What are the most common symptoms of coronavirus?

Typical coronavirus symptoms are: a high temperature; a new continuous cough; or a change to or loss of sense of taste of smell.  A high temperature or fever is usually considered to be a temperature of 38C or above. See https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/symptoms/ for more details about coronavirus symptoms.

If you don’t have a thermometer you can usually tell if someone has a high temperature if they:

  • feel hotter than usual to touch on their forehead, back or stomach
  • feel sweaty or clammy
  • have flushed cheeks

How can I tell if I have coronavirus or a cold? 

If you are not sure whether you or your child’s symptoms suggest that they have coronavirus or an everyday cough or cold, you can consult this online NHS symptom checker, which has been designed to help you to tell the difference. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/symptoms/

Children often pick up colds and bugs after returning to school, but a runny nose or sore throat are not associated with COVID-19.


I think I need a coronavirus test.  How can I get one?

If you have any of the coronavirus symptoms, try to arrange a test straight away.  If you can access the internet, go to https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test.  Do not try to book a test if you haven’t got symptoms. Tests are only for those with symptoms and you would be making it harder for people with symptoms to get the test they need.

What if I can’t get online? 

If you can’t get online, or have trouble using websites, you can try the telephone test booking number, which is 119. However, the telephone service doesn’t have access to any more tests than the online booking system. If there are no appointments online, calling 119 will not help.

I have symptoms but I haven’t been able to get a test. What should I do?

We know that many people all over the country are having problems booking a test and we understand how frustrating this is. Do keep trying, as new testing slots are added regularly during the day. 

Can I get a test from my GP, hospital or by turning up to a test site and joining the queue?

No.  The only way for members of the public to get a test anywhere is to use the booking service.  Your GP does not have any COVID tests and they cannot diagnose COVID-19 in an appointment.  Going to a GP practice with symptoms endangers others and could cause the practice to close. Hospitals only have a very limited number of tests for patients about to have planned treatments, or waiting to be discharged from hospital – you can’t get a test in an A&E department.  If you turn up at a testing site without an appointment, staff cannot and will not test you. 

I haven’t been able to get a COVID test, but I have symptoms.  What should I do?

If you have COVID symptoms but haven’t been able to get a test within 5 days of your symptoms developing, you should act as if you have the virus and follow the self-isolation guidance.  You must not leave your home for 10 days and anyone in your household or support bubble who hasn’t got symptoms must stay at home too, for 14 days.  This is in case they go on to develop symptoms as well. If people in your household go on to develop symptoms, they should try to get a test too.  Detailed government advice on staying at home can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection  If you need to get food or other essential supplies during your isolation, please ask a friend or a family member who doesn’t live with you to get them for you.  

How can I look after myself if I have COVID-19, or the symptoms of the virus?

There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus, but you can often ease the symptoms at home until you recover, using the advice on the NHS website:  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-and-treatment/how-to-treat-symptoms-at-home/

If your symptoms get worse and you are worried, go to https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19 . If you don’t have access to the internet, you can ring NHS 111.  If you have a long-term health condition and you are worried about the impact of your coronavirus symptoms on your health, contact your GP surgery online or on the phone.


Children and coronavirus

My child doesn’t have symptoms but has been sent home from school because someone in their school ‘bubble’ has coronavirus. What should I do?

Our schools, colleges and early years settings are working hard to try to ensure that pupils and staff are protected and to stop the virus spreading.   This means that children in the same group, class, or year as someone with a confirmed case of coronavirus are being asked to self-isolate, even if they don’t have symptoms.  Although this is tough on children and families, this should slow down the rate at which the virus is spreading in our area.  Here’s what self-isolation means for a child or young person and their household members:

  • Self-isolation means they must not leave their home for 14 days because they might have been exposed to Covid-19. It can take 14 days for symptoms to develop
  • Your child(ren) should not leave the house and cannot visit family, friends or attend any activities or parties, even if these are outdoors. They cannot go out to exercise, use public transport or taxis, even if they wear a mask.
  • Being sent home does not mean that your child(ren) has coronavirus and you should not book a test for your child(ren), unless they develop symptoms
  • Other members of your household will not be expected to self-isolate due to child(ren) being sent home in a school bubble unless the child develops symptoms, in which case the rules on testing and self-isolation apply above.



My employer has asked me to get an isolation note. How can I get one?

If you have been asked to get an isolation note from your employer, go to https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19.  There is no need to call your GP and you must not visit your GP practice.

My child has a runny nose. Do I need a doctor’s note to say they can attend school?

Children often have runny noses.  You do not need a note from your doctor to send your child to school if they have a sniffle, and your doctor will not provide one if you ask.

How will I manage if I have to isolate?

If you are worried about how you will manage with shopping, getting prescriptions or managing financially when you are isolating, go to this website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-and-treatment/help-and-financial-support-while-youre-self-isolating/

Expanded flu programme to focus on most vulnerable groups first

Expanded flu programme to focus on most vulnerable groups first

GPs and community pharmacists across west Essex have welcomed plans to extend the flu vaccination programme to those aged 50-64 who weren’t previously eligible for a free jab.

The flu vaccination programme has been expanded to protect more people as we head into winter with potential risks from both flu and COVID-19.

However to protect the most vulnerable in society the flu vaccinations will first be only available to all those aged 65 and over, people with certain long-term medical conditions, pregnant women, and young children.

Residents in the area aged 50 to 64 who are not in a clinical risk group will be offered the vaccine later in the winter season when more stock becomes available. This could be in November or December 2020. In the meantime, residents are being asked to be patient. This will allow GPs to focus on vaccinating those most vulnerable first.

Rob Gerlis, Harlow GP and Chair of West Essex CCG, said: “I’d like to say thank you to staff at all our practices at this time, who are working so hard to ensure all the additional people eligible for the flu vaccine this year will get it in a timely manner. We are pleased to be able to expand our flu campaign this year.

“However, we would ask you to wait until we have vaccinated the very vulnerable, young and elderly, then we will be ready and able to vaccinate those aged over 50. We will have more information after 1 November. Let’s work together to support the NHS this wintertime and keep our patients safe and well.”

When available, people who fall into the new category will be contacted with more information.

Until then it is important that those who are eligible do take up the offer of a flu vaccine. Flu is more than just a bad cold. Some people may need to stay in bed for a few days but for others who are more vulnerable it can lead to more severe illness, can worsen existing illness and can lead to pneumonia or bronchitis. In the worst cases, flu can result in a stay in hospital, or even death.

This year, more than ever before, it is important for patients at risk to have the flu vaccination due to the potential risk of COVID-19, said Rob.

He added: “Flu vaccination offers important protection against flu, saves lives and helps to reduce the pressure on the NHS in the busy winter months. Expanding the programme is welcome but it is important that those usually at higher risk are protected first as they are likely to be more seriously affected by flu.”

Practices and pharmacies are following strict guidance and social distancing measures to make sure that it is safe for you to come for your vaccination. When you are offered your vaccine, please take the opportunity to gain this valuable protection for yourself and your community.

Public invited to virtual Board and AGM on Thursday 30 July, 2020

Public invited to virtual Board and AGM on Thursday 30 July, 2020

NHS West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is inviting members of the public to its next Board and AGM meetings which takes place Thursday 30 July, 2020.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Board and AGM meetings will be held virtually over Microsoft Teams. Members of the public will be able to join and observe the meeting by clicking on the link on the West Essex CCG website at the time of the meeting. There will also be an option to dial in.

The Board Meeting in public will start at 9.30am and finish ay 12pm, after which the meeting will be closed to the public and guests asked to end the meeting or hang up the phone. Members of the public are not able to participate in the decision-making process, but will be able to submit questions in advance that will be put to Board members at the end of the meeting. To submit a question email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The AGM will be held between 3pm and 4pm and attendees will be able to hear from the chief officer, chair and finance director. Again, members of the public can submit questions in advance by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Peter Wightman, Managing Director at West Essex CCG said: “People will be able to hear about what we have achieved over the last year, our plans for the coming year and how they can engage and work with us.  We are very keen to hear from our residents across Epping Forest, Harlow and Uttlesford so please do email us with your questions.”

To join the Board meeting in public at 9.30am, please click on the link or use the dial-in details below:

Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

+44 20 3321 5208   United Kingdom, London (Toll)

Conference ID: 994 004 112#

View the Board papers.

To join the AGM between 3pm and 4pm, please click on the link or use the dial-in details below:

Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

+44 20 3321 5208   United Kingdom, London (Toll)

Conference ID: 648 460 503#

View the AGM agenda.

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