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Pop-up coronavirus testing under review after staff abused, as case rates rise and grants for ‘community health champions’ launch

Published: Thursday, 1st July 2021

Pop-up coronavirus testing that gives targeted support to specific communities in the city is being reviewed after health workers delivering the service were verbally abused.

Health workers were in the city centre on Tuesday to give out home testing kits, carry out lateral flow tests and show residents how to use the kits themselves, but were forced to finish the session early after being targeted by a small minority of people shouting anti-vaccination messages. The teams were due to return to the city centre today (Thursday) and Saturday.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Abi Brown said: “We run these sessions with health care professionals from the NHS and it’s disgusting that anyone would wish to abuse the staff. The pop-up testing has proven really popular in other locations right across the city. But a small minority of people in the city centre yesterday chose to abuse this. It will not be tolerated. The teams were in the city centre because it is in the ward which is currently experiencing one of the highest coronavirus case rates in the city. We want to support residents and protect them from this horrid virus. But we will not stand for staff being abused. Now we are reviewing the pop-up testing arrangements and it may mean that we are not able to provide this service, or need to provide it in a different way.”

Coronavirus cases in the city continue to rise. The latest seven-day rate of cases is now 152.5 per 100,000 people, for the week 18 June – 24 June, an increase of 81 per cent on the previous seven days. The percentage of people who have had a test and tested positive is 3.7 per cent. Cases are widespread across the city but hotspot areas are Hanley Park and Shelton.

Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of adult social care, health integration and wellbeing, said: “As expected, our cases have rapidly increased this week and these numbers again reinforce the need for us all to continue to be vigilant and follow the public health guidance to stop Covid-19 from spreading further. The good news is that hospital admissions are low, showing that the vaccine roll-out is doing its job.

“We know that transmission is spread across the city – there is no focal point as to where rising cases are coming from, but the central area of the city generally has some of the highest case rates, the lowest uptake of testing and a lower than average uptake of vaccinations.

“There have been a number of cases within our schools. Last week, we urged all city schools – in both primary and secondary settings – to complete lateral flow tests before the end of the week, which we hope has picked up cases that may otherwise have gone unidentified, stopping the further spread of the virus. I’d like to be clear that schools right across the city are continuing to work incredibly hard to follow all of the health guidance and protect pupils and staff.

“The number of cases in the city is currently third out of 14 authority areas across the West Midlands, behind Birmingham (165.5 per 100,000) and Solihull (159.4 per 100,000). Staffordshire Moorlands has 95 cases per 100,000 and Newcastle has 97 cases per 100,000. These figures are based on data released on 28 June. We know that transmission is predominantly in the unvaccinated younger age groups which is then breaking through into schools and workplaces. It is really vital that we all get vaccinated, and we all continue to get tested regularly and record our results so that we take the virus out of circulation.”

‘Grab a jab’ clinics will again be run in the city this week, following the success of sessions held last weekend. They will take place on Friday (2 July), between 12pm and 4pm at Equalities House Community Centre, Hanley, ST1 4DP, where the Moderna vaccine will be available for people under the age of 40, and anyone over the age of 18 who hasn’t had their first jab can attend. There will also be a small amount of Astra Zeneca vaccine for second doses for over 40s only. On Saturday (3 July), between 9am and 12noon, residents will be able to ‘grab a jab’ at Birches Head Medical Centre, Diana Rd, Stoke-on-Trent ST1 6RS. The centre will offer the Astra Zeneca vaccine for all over 40s who have not yet had their second dose. Residents can receive their second dose if they had their first dose over eight weeks ago. The centre will also be offering the Pfizer dose for anybody over 18 who has not had their first vaccine.

For more information, please visit https://www.twbstaffsandstoke.org.uk/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccination/where-can-i-get-my-vaccination-from/community-vaccination-sites

From Saturday (3 July), Hanley Town Football Club will be open for testing and Community Collect between 9am and 12pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The following locations are also now PCR testing sites only: Fenton Manor Sports Complex Car Park, off City Road in Fenton, and Synectics Solutions Car Park, off Hamil Road in Burslem.

Meanwhile, a new grant scheme has been launched to help Stoke-on-Trent’s voluntary and community organisations to engage with the Community Health Champion project.

Grass Roots grants of up to £2,000 will be offered to small community groups, who will commit to at least one member of their group becoming a Community Health Champion.

VCSE Partner Grants of up to £5,000 are available to registered charities and social enterprises. These organisations will commit to at least two staff members or volunteers becoming Community Health Champions.

Eighteen Community Health Champions have been recruited so far through the scheme launched with VAST. Community Health Champion volunteers will work closely with the project team, their communities, and some of the city’s health professionals, to share health-related messages in innovative and locally relevant ways. It’s an engaging and creative opportunity for volunteers to make a difference in their communities. Currently, the project is focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic.

If your community group or organisation would like to apply for a grant, please go to  https://chc.vast.org.uk/support-for-local-vcfse-organisations/

If you think you could make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of residents across our city, you can apply online. We want to hear from anybody living in Stoke-on-Trent who is over the age of 18 and wants to get involved in different communities across the city.

You can find out more about Community Health Champions by visiting https://chc.vast.org.uk/.

The Community Health Champions have their own social media accounts. Please follow them on @sothealthchamps on Facebook and Twitter.

Zi Khumalo, the project’s Volunteer Co-ordinator, said: “The role of the Community Health Champions is to communicate information at a very local level, in the most appropriate way, as well as to feedback any concerns that the community has.

“We know that people are more likely to trust information shared by someone like them, rather than faceless professionals.

“We’re really looking forward to working closely with some of the city’s other organisations to improve all residents’ health and wellbeing. Together we can make a real difference.”

Councillor Brown said: “This is such a great initiative and I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to recruit so many ‘champions’ so quickly – in just a couple of weeks. But we still need more. Community health champions will be sharing clear and accurate health information, and listen to and help to answer people’s concerns about the coronavirus and other health matters. They’re really important roles and can help make a real difference to the lives of local people.”