Wiltshire's Director of Public Health releases annual report 2020 to 2021
The Director of Public Health Report for 2020 to 2021 has now been published, and focuses on the impact of COVID-19 on Wiltshire communities
Wiltshire Council has published it's annual Director of Public Health Report for 2020 to 2021, focusing this year's report on the impact of COVID-19 on Wiltshire communities, following the events and challenges of the past year.
The Director of Public Health, Kate Blackburn, is required to produce an annual report each year to highlight the health of the population.
The last year has been dominated by the pandemic, presenting an unprecedented challenge for everyone, both locally and nationally as well as across the world. This has shone a spotlight on health inequalities that exist in Wiltshire's communities and how certain populations have been disproportionately impacted during this time.
This year's report focuses on some of the most vulnerable groups that were affected by COVID-19 in Wiltshire and the important steps taken by the Wiltshire Public Health team and wider council staff, in partnership with local agencies and community members, to tackle the spread and impact of the virus.
Wiltshire is a predominantly rural county with a current population of 504,070. Whilst it is in the least deprived 30% of local authorities in England, inequalities still exist. Approximately 14,000 people live in the most deprived areas of Wiltshire and are more likely to experience poorer health outcomes including reduced life expectancy as a result.
The report shows how the public health team worked with partners, and the communities themselves, to support those groups at higher risk of contracting the virus or who may experience poorer health outcomes as a result.
The highlights of the report include:
- Local businesses.There is an increasing awareness that COVID-19 has had greater impact on disadvantaged populations experiencing higher levels of occupational exposure, overcrowded housing and insecure employment. Wiltshire Public Health worked to support those settings and individuals who may have struggled to isolate or quarantine if required due to a potential loss of income, as well as managing outbreaks in workplaces, often linked to working conditions and insecure employment.
- Vaccinations. Wiltshire vaccination uptakes have been good across all cohorts, but pockets of lower uptake were identified and support was required to help ensure the safety of Wiltshire's most vulnerable groups. Working alongside partners, the Wiltshire team delivered vaccinations in innovative approaches that have never been explored in the county before, including a vaccination bus, canal boat, and homeless pop-up clinic to bring a mobile option for vaccinating vulnerable communities and offer an important space to discuss any hesitancy and concerns.
- Care homes. Care home residents are at elevated risk of contracting the virus, due to factors including age and higher prevalence or increased complexity of long-term health conditions, with staff also at greater exposure due to the nature of the work. Lockdown and infection control measures can also impact on the mental and physical wellbeing of care home residents. Wiltshire Public Health and the council's Adult Social Care created a new single point of contact for care homes, available seven days a week, engaging with every care home in Wiltshire to ensure they have the support they needed.
- Prisons. People in prison are more likely to experience multiple, sometimes more complex physical and/or mental health conditions compared with the overall population with many wider health determinants complicating the care needed. The risk of transmission of the virus is increased due to the close living quarters, and in February and March 2021 a large outbreak occurred and was complex to manage at HMP Erlestoke. The Public Health team helped to arrange whole prison testing to protect the physical wellbeing of prisoners and the situation was contained and brought under control. A new library service was also introduced during lockdown, to help improve mental health.
Kate Blackburn, Wiltshire's Director of Public Health, said:
I'm pleased to be sharing my first annual report as Director of Public Health, and it has been truly inspiring and heart-warming to see how the Wiltshire community has pulled together and looked out for each other during such sad and challenging times.
The pandemic has taken its toll on everyone, but it has certainly strengthened our relationships with the communities of the county and that positive partnership will be key going forward.
While the standard of health in Wiltshire is generally very good compared to that nationally, we still have plenty of work to do to ensure healthier lives for all. I look forward to building on the strong foundations created during this past year to ensure that the immediate and long-term impacts of the pandemic, as well as the health inequalities that exist in some of our communities, are fully addressed.
The Director of Public Health Report for 2020 to 2021 is available at: Public health intelligence.
For information about public health services in Wiltshire, including information regarding COVID-19, people can visit: Public health.
Further information and data about Wiltshire Public Health can be accessed on the Wiltshire Intelligence Network website at: Intelligence Network.