‘Never have we been more together,’ say North Yorkshire health bosses ahead of first lockdown anniversary

Resident Malcolm Boyes with community support organisation volunteer Jenny Potter.

“Never have we been more together”, health bosses have said about communities and key services, ahead of the anniversary of the first national lockdown.

A meeting of North Yorkshire’s health and wellbeing board heard while there had been 28,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the county and more than 1,100 deaths over the last year, the figures could have been much higher if people and agencies had not forged partnerships.

The board, which shapes healthcare, social care and public health services in the county, heard some of the county’s leading health figures consider changes over the past 12 months ahead of a national day of reflection on Tuesday.

Charity Marie Curie, which hopes the day of reflection will become an annual event, is promoting a nationwide minute of silence at noon, followed by bells tolling.

Richard Webb, the county council’s director of health and adult services, said it was “easy to forget where we were in March and April” last year, when projections were that up to 500 people a day in the county would die.

He said the crisis had seen “quite unlikely combinations” of public sector workers working together to overcome urgent and pressing issues.

Mr Webb said it was almost a year to the day since the various members of the board had discussed with faith and community leaders about how the county would cope with the forecast hundreds of daily deaths and how people could be supported when they couldn’t grieve.

He said: “At a time when we’ve been so separate and apart and all in our own homes for much of the year, in some ways never have we been more together.”

Louise Wallis, director of public health, told members one of the most remarkable responses to the pandemic had been the 110,000 volunteer hours completed by North Yorkshire residents.

She said: “This has been a really unprecedented year and we have seen lots of sadness in terms of people dying from the virus, but also lots of very positive community spirit with people trying to support each other and agencies working together collaboratively.”

Amanda Bloor, of North Yorkshire clinical commissioning group, said the impact of Covid-19 “could have been so much worse if we have not pulled together”. She added: “System and partnership are two things in North Yorkshire that I think have stood us in really good stead.”

Ms Bloor said the third spike of Covid-19 cases in the county in January and February had hit services “really hard”, and the impact on already exhausted frontline staff could not be underestimated.

She said: “We do need to think as we move through the unlocking and the road map allowing all of our staff whatever role they play across health and care and wider services in the county that time to recover and recuperate, getting a break from work, particularly those very frontline services.”