44 ambulance staff test positive in coronavirus outbreak at Black Country call centre

Ambulance service call centre staff were at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak last month, it has been revealed.

The outbreak has been confirmed in a report to be discussed by ambulance trust bosses
The outbreak has been confirmed in a report to be discussed by ambulance trust bosses

Forty-four people working at the regional NHS 111 base, near Dudley, tested positive for Covid-19, with “evidence of cross-infection” between staff, according to bosses at West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS).

The cases were spread out across 28 days.

In a report for governing trust, Nursing and Commissioning Executive Director Mark Docherty and Executive Medical Director Alison Walker said that the outbreak was formally declared over on October 13.

They added that the trust’s response has been declared a success, and WMAS has been asked to share its experience with other service providers.

Three of the positive cases were workers who had gone on holiday together as a group, with a further 16 staff having to self-isolate as a result.

In November 2019, WMAS took over provision of the non-emergency 111 service for Birmingham, the Black Country, Coventry, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

Its 111 control room, at Navigation Point, in Brierley Hill, handles nearly 3,700 calls a day.

A separate healthcare company, Vocare Ltd, provides the service in Staffordshire.

Mr Docherty and Dr Walker write: “A total of 44 people working in the 111 service in Navigation Point tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.

“WMAS declared this an outbreak as there was evidence of cross-infection.”

Incident management meetings, chaired by Mr Docherty, involved NHS England, Public Health England, among other bodies.

“The WMAS response to the outbreak has been held up as an exemplar model and we have been asked to write up and publish information on how we managed this,” the report authors write.

“The outbreak was formally declared over 28 days after the first reported case.

“The Incident Management Team met on October 13, 2020, to formally close the outbreak incident.”

Mr Docherty’s and Dr Walker’s Quality Report is due to be discussed by the West Midlands Ambulance Service University NHS Foundation Trust board of directors when it meets remotely on Wednesday, October 28.

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