February Health Matters

Five Issues in this month’s Podcast

  • Covid-19 Numbers
  • Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment
  • Vaccine Strategy
  • New Hospital Plans
  • Mount Vernon Cancer Centre
  1. Covid Numbers – it’s hard to talk about Covid numbers – every number is a loved one! But people do need to know the trends locally.  You can find the details at


It shows that in Hertfordshire we’re clearly coming out of the third wave, but hospital numbers are still high and there’s a very concerning development in Broxbourne – the South African mutation (no new cases have been found!). In terms of number of cases!

In St Albans

  • We reached our third peak at 740 cases per 100,000 on JAN 2nd
  • We ‘re currently at 120!
  • The hardest hit area is Colney Heath & Tyttenhanger at 295. And
  • The lowest is Harpenden with no reported cases!

In Hertfordshire

  • The third peak was on JAN 4th  at 948 cases per 100,000
  • We’re currently at 135

But Hospitalisation

  • Third peak was JAN 15th with 550 people in hospital
  • Currently down to 329

This chart shows the number of cases per 100,000

2. Covid Vaccine – Deployment – The Vaccination Centre at Batchwood Hall completed all the top priority vaccinations (over 75s  plus NHS/Care Home staff) and started on the over 70 cohort on Friday 13th. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has congratulated the Centre on an outstanding performance – it’s one of the highest performing centres in the UK!

Although that’s the headline, there’s a backstory!

  • There’s still some people who are housebound to be done;
  • There’s evidence that take-up is below average in Care Homes;
  • There’s some resistance to getting the vaccine down to conspiracy theories and lack of trust.
  • Second jabs for the people already done will be starting up in mid-March.
  • An additional vaccination centre could be opening in the Arena theatre could be opening to cater for the increased workload.

One last thought – have you noticed the work going on down at Westminster Lodge? It’s going to be a rapid testing centre!

3. Vaccine Strategy – the Joint Committee (JCVI) prioritised the vaccination program to reduce deaths from Covid hence the focus on the most clinically vulnerable. And so the next two cohorts are the over 65, 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions, and unpaid carers. Once all of these are done we will have effectively achieved the “reduce deaths” objective (ONS data shows that 90% of deaths occur in over 65s).

So who should get the vaccine next? At the moment JCVI is prioritising age (the next target is to do all of the over 50s by the end of April.)

But if the objective was to stop the spread of Covid you’d take a different route! For example a 50 year old office worker working from home would get the jab before a 49 year old teacher! An alternative strategy would be to prioritise all key workers (a third of the UK workforce). So, in addition to teachers you’d be including emergency responders,transport staff,food suppliers etc.

The government is lucky in being able to delegate this decision to the JCVI!

4. Hospital Reconfiguration – this long running saga is still ongoing! The plans are still to beef up Watford considerably, to have elective (planned) treatment at St Albans and to concentrate urgent care and diagnostics at Hemel Hempstead. The original financial envelope was £350m but that is now closer to £450m. According to WHHT, that is still not enough to cover a new hospital build; the campaign for a new hospital lost a judicial review in January.

The Outline Business Case is due to be completed soon!

5. Mount Vernon Cancer Centre (“MVCC”) – anyone who has had cancer and has been to Mount Vernon will be well aware of the pros and cons of this facility (great care, poor facilities and an unpredictable journey time!).

There’s an ongoing plan to update the provision of cancer services. This is driven by the need to locate major service close to an acute facility and to distribute radiotherapy service closer to the community. The overall management of the program will come under UCLH which is the premier cancer service provider in the UK, Want to get involved – go to https://mvccreview.nhs.uk/mount-vernon-cancer-services-review-updates

Alan Bellinger Written by:

Alan is a Trustee of Healthwatch Hertfordshire and very well engaged with all things related to Health & Social Care within the Community. After retirement from a successful career in the private sector (working in both training and Information Technology), Alan wanted to get involved in supporting local health issues and has an excellent understanding of what it takes to ensure a great patient experience, Alan has lived in St Albans for well over 65 years; he is a widower with two children and he especially enjoys the company of his five grandchildren – four of whom live in the local area.

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