Health Minister announces new Covid-19 surge plan for Northern Ireland

8 Oct 2020 Kathy Maguire    Last updated: 8 Oct 2020

Health Minister Robin Swann has launched a new COVID-19 Surge Planning Strategic Framework for Northern Ireland.

The Surge Planning Strategic Framework provides the overall structure and parameters within which local  Health and Social Care  Trusts will be required to develop plans for managing the response to COVID-19 in the event of further waves.

The Minister announced the new Framework in a statement to the Assembly, which can be viewed here .

What's in the Framework Document? 

In planning for further COVID-19 waves, the Department states there is significant learning to be derived from it's management and experience of the first wave of the pandemic and that this is reflected in the framework document.

The department states that the Framework does not cover all potential issues and services but instead highlights what it considers the key strategic issues involved with planning for further COVID-19 surges.  

The new Surge Planning Framework :

  • Highlights what the Department considers as important learning from from earlier months in the pandemic;
  • Sets out the Departments approach to virus surveillance and modelling;
  • Reviews actions to help minimise COVID-19 transmission and impact;
  • Summarises key regional initiatives to organise health and social care services in order to facilitate effective service delivery;
  • Highlights actions around the key issues of Workforce, Medicines and Testing;
  • Confirms a number of principles for Health and Social Care Trusts to follow and adopt when developing their individual surge plans.

In the document the department acknowledges the continued health care contribution made by those outside the traditional HSC family  including community and voluntary sector staff and volunteers .

It also acknowledges the vital contribution made by family carers and states that their needs , including access to psychological support must be actively considered by health and social care trusts in regard to local service planning and delivery.

 Key initiatives detailed in the Framework include:

  • the establishment of a regional cancer reset cell to oversee the resumption of screening, diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients in clinically safe environments as quickly as possible, and to protect these services as much as possible in the event of further potential surges of COVID-19; 
  • action to capture learning in relation to care homes to mitigate future transmission of the virus in those settings.
  • establishing dedicated centres for day case and orthopaedic procedures.
  • the continued availability of the critical care capacity at NI’s first Nightingale facility at Belfast City Hospital’s Tower Block. The department  says additional ICU capacity at the City Hospital’s Nightingale facility will only be needed in the event of an extreme surge in demand for intensive care.
  • The Tower Block will remain a protected site for cancer and other specialist surgery for as long possible.
  • the additional step down capacity at NI’s second Nightingale facility at Whiteabbey hospital.

The Framework document can be viewed in full here

Individual localised surge plans have also been published by each of the 5 health and social Trust and can be viewed Here alongside a Winter surge plan for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service.'s picture
by Kathy Maguire

Policy Development Officer

[email protected]

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