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5. Health protection and emergency planning

Health protection addresses threats to human health from infectious diseases and hazards such as chemical releases. Directors of public health in England are responsible on behalf of their local authorities for ensuring plans are in place to protect the health of the population from threats ranging from relatively minor outbreaks to full-scale emergencies. This includes plans for communicable disease, infection control, sexual health, environmental health, emergency planning, screening and immunisation programmes. In essence, the director of public health’s role in health protection is about providing robust assurance and advocacy on behalf of the local population.

The health protection function is not new to local authorities – environmental health and emergency planners already work to protect health by monitoring food safety, improving health & safety in the workplace and developing emergency plans. The challenge for local authorities now lies in delivering broader health protection functions in a new health landscape, in which there are multiple organisations with different responsibilities including Public Health England (PHE), NHS England and Clinical Commissioning Group. Assurance is exercised through the Health Protection Assurance Group. The group monitors key health protection issues and provides a forum for partners to discuss challenges, risks and areas of joint work.

A focus on flu

South Gloucestershire performed much better than other areas in relation to flu vaccination coverage and uptake for all groups remained above the national average by the end of the 2014/15 flu programme. However, Table 1 shows that performance was lower across the majority of groups (excluding pregnant women) for the 2014/15 programme compared with the 2013/14 programme. South Gloucestershire will be working towards improving performance for the 2015/16 season with a focus on health and social care staff.

Table 1. Influenza vaccination uptake

Flu vaccination uptake by group Target 13/14 programme uptake rate 14/15 programme uptake rate
65 years and over 75% 79.4% 78%
At risk clinical groups Improve on 13/14 59.6% 56.9%
Pregnant women Improve on 13/14 46% 47.8%
Carers Improve on 13/14 56.8% 54.8%
Children 50.2% 49%

Nurse about to give small girl an injection.

Community outbreaks of infectious disease

Between April 2014 and February 2015, there were 25 different outbreaks recorded in out-of-hospital settings in South Gloucestershire (source: HP Zone database). Of these, the main types of outbreaks were norovirus and respiratory disease. About two-thirds of the recorded outbreaks occurred in care homes with a much lower proportion occurring in schools, nurseries and prisons. Infectious disease training and an associated information pack will be produced for care homes in 2015/16.

For more information please contact Simon Hailwood, South Gloucestershire Council Lead for Emergency Planning