Councillor Mayes introduced the report by thanking all NHS Staff and Health Care Professionals who had supported Thurrock residents through the Covid-19 pandemic over the last 18 months. This had been an extremely difficult time for Thurrock residents and for everybody across the country. Even though this had been difficult it was essential to do all we could to save lives and to protect the NHS. This year had seen the successful rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines which had enabled the Government to review restrictions. In Thurrock as of the 18 November, approximately 80% of Thurrock residents had received their vaccinations which had been a remarkable achievement. Councillor Mayes thanked everyone who had been involved in the vaccination programme. During this time we had continued to work successfully with health partners. Brighter Futures implementation was underway for younger people to have the wraparound support for them and their parents. Work continued on the four Integrated Medical Centres and committed to delivering the Integrated Medical Centre model and implementing all the primary care services and benefits these would bring. Recognised the pressure on general practitioners during the pandemic and how they were trying to catch up over the last 18 months although some general practitioners had been better at undertaking face to face appointments than others. Working with the Clinical Commissioning Group planned to visit practices throughout Thurrock now the restrictions had been lifted and have the opportunity to speak to those delivering the service. Mental Health Transformation, the successful trial of a new strategy which had been rolled out at Primary Care Networks within Thurrock would improve access to services. Recognised more could be done and committed to work with health partners to ensure this got better. In regards to Air Quality, actively recruiting an Air Quality Officer who would undertake air quality reviews which were greatly needed in the borough and to look at the Tilbury dust.
Councillor Pothecary questioned the under-doctoring in the borough, with Thurrock being the third worst borough in the country. Asked what the key drivers were of that problem and what the best route of this would be when working with health partners. Councillor Mayes stated it had been very difficult to recruit general practitioners into Thurrock and the way to do this would be to look at better working environments and for new general practitioners they would be looking at an area which were transforming their primary care services and delivering the Integrated Medial Centres in a timely fashion.
Councillor Pothecary questioned whether the closure of Orsett Hospital had been put on hold during the Covid outbreak and whether during this time any further plans or rethinking had been made to save the future of Orsett Hospital. Councillor Mayes confirmed the services currently at Orsett Hospital would be moving out and in consultation with the Clinical Commissioning Group and Health Partner this would be in 2025 with no movement in delaying those plans.
Councillor Pothecary stated that air quality was one of the biggest challenges being faced in this borough and stated her frustrations there were no bold radical plans in place to deal with those issues and asked the portfolio holder to commit to some sort of action or timetable on when this situation would improve, when radical action would take place and when the borough would see the action on promises that he had made. Councillor Mayes stated that to make any improvements you had to have the data and facts but the situation had improved and as example referred to the installation of electric charging points in the borough for electric vehicles. That until the recruitment of the air quality officer this could not be moved forward.
Councillor Ralph referred to face to face appointments with general practitioners and going forward what could residents do if they were still unable to get a face to face appointment and had there been any reported improvement of this. Councillor Mayes stated the data supplied to him had indicated an increase and for those residents who felt they were not getting the service they felt they should get, would be to report this to the practice manager at their general practice or use the 111 service.
Councillor Redsell referred to air quality and stated until the air quality officer was in place we did not have the information or data we needed. Councillor Mayes shared member’s frustrations as this had been a very difficult recruitment process.
Councillor J Kent referred to the issue of access to general practitioners and again asked the portfolio holder in partnership with health partners and colleagues what they urgently plan to do to improve this situation. Councillor Mayes agreed this had been difficult and in conversations with health colleagues, the Clinical Commissioning Group and general practitioners there had been a lot of pressure and trying to catch up in a situation that was not normal. That ultimately an environment had to be created that would attract new practitioners into the borough and to look at different ways of working. Councillor Mayes also stated some residents preferred the telephone/video appointments and there had to be some flexibility on primary care services to move this forward.
Councillor Byrne questioned why all S106 monies were being diverted to health and not to its intended destination. Councillor Mayes stated that he was sure health were not getting all the S106 monies.
Councillor Massey expressed his shock on the air quality spent for 2020/21 was only £28,000 and based on the scale of the problem this seemed a very small financial amount. Councillor Massey questioned whether idling enforcement fines could be ring-fenced towards air quality spend in the future and questioned how many £40 fixed notice penalties had been issued in 2020/21 to which Councillor Mayes stated this would not within his gift as portfolio holder and would need to be agreed by Cabinet.