HOME BASED BUSINESSES
Several constituents who have home-based businesses have recently alerted me to the fact that they cannot apply for grant support from the Business Support Scheme since they pay domestic rates. Businesses are currently required to be based in non-domestic premises to be able eligible to apply
I have written to both the Finance Secretary and Orkney Islands Council to highlight the impact that this requirement will have on many local businesses in Orkney and to urge them to look at how criteria could be made more flexible to widen access to support.
Once I have received responses, I will share them with those who have contacted me already on this issue. If you haven’t already done so, but would like to be kept updated, please let me know. I will also try to circulate the information more widely
ADDITIONAL AIR AMBULANCE CAPACITY
The Health Secretary has now confirmed new arrangements in place to increase air ambulance capacity for island communities. The following actions were announced by Jeane Freeman MSP yesterday:
- Procurement of Epishuttles, which are single patient isolation pods to ensure the safety of the patient and healthcare staff during transfer. 8 of these shuttles have been purchased, 2 of which have been received and are being tested over 7 days for a go-live date on 3 April. A further 2 will be received on 17 April and another 4 by Mid-May.
- Whilst these Epishuttles are being tested SAS is working with the RAF who are currently providing cover for transfers off of the islands, using two puma helicopters based at Lossiemouth which can transfer patients without Epishuttles.
- Where a military fixed wing aircraft or helicopter is requested, before Epishuttles are available, SAS will be able to deploy their expert retrieval team timeously to support Island colleagues prepare the patient for transfer and undertake the retrieval, meaning they will be on site ahead of the military air asset and have the patient ready for transfer when it arrives.
- Working with Loganair, who are providing two additional twin otter aircraft, one of which will be operational from Friday 3 April and the other within the next 14 days. These additional aircraft will be kitted out with Epishuttles and utilised for air retrieval off those islands with the appropriate landing facilities.
- Ensuring that patients on islands without any appropriate landing facilities for fixed wing aircraft will receive airlift by helicopter.
CHANGES TO NORTHLINK FERRIES TIMETABLE
Northlink Ferries are operating a revised timetable effective from Monday 6th with service alterations as a consequence of Covid-19 impact on passenger services in particular. A copy can be found here: https://www.northlinkferries.co.uk/timetables/
REVISED PPE GUIDANCE- UPDATE FROM THE HEALTH SECRETARY
In response to the emerging epidemiology and evidence, urgent work has been under way to review the existing UK-wide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) guidance and today the revised guidance has been published.
The guidance is available on the COVID-19 pages of the Health Protection Scotland (HPS) website and outlines what PPE frontline health and social care workers should be wearing in different settings and scenarios. The guidance has had input from Royal Colleges and is endorsed by expert scientific groups.
New tables have been added to the guidance, which clearly explain the PPE required for different common clinical and care scenarios. The first table relates to acute hospitals and the second is for primary care, outpatient and community care, ambulance staff, paramedics, first responders and pharmacy. There is an additional table that describes when to use PPE when caring for any patient or resident. This last section is important at a time when we are aware that there is sustained community transmission of COVID-19, and the likelihood of any patient or resident having COVID-19, without any of the recognised symptoms, is raised.
Given the recognised sustained community transmission of COVID-19, the guidance importantly includes detailed advice around risk assessing the use of PPE, including aprons, gowns, Fluid-Resistant Surgical Masks (FRSMs) and eye protection, in a range of different clinical and care scenarios, including community settings, such as care homes and caring for individuals in their own homes. The guidance also asks that organisations themselves undertake risk assessments to ensure that they provide the correct PPE for the safety of their staff.
The guidance is also clear that, in line with agreement from the Health and Safety Executive, in certain circumstances, some PPE – particularly masks and eye protection - can be worn for a full session, and don’t need to be changed between patients. This will ensure that health and social care workers can safely carry out their work; particularly when they are working in areas where there is a high risk of COVID-19 transmission such as Emergency Departments or intensive care units. The Health and Safety Executive has reviewed the guidance and agreed the appropriate sessional use of some PPE.
Importantly, in terms of shielding the extremely vulnerable in our society, the guidance advises that secondary, primary and community care workers should wear a surgical mask when providing care to any individuals in the extremely vulnerable group.
A helpline has also been set up for registered social care providers having problems accessing PPE, with extra staff to prepare orders for social care, additional delivery drivers, longer delivery hours and use of more external delivery companies to increase capacity. Work continues to source further PPE and ensure there is an appropriate supply for all our workforce.
The contacts are as follows:
-NP NHS COVID - 19 enquiries: NSS.firstname.lastname@example.org
-NHS NSS social care PPE triage: 0300 303 3020
The Scottish Government also has a new dedicated email address for staff, MSPs or members of the public to raise specific supply issues. This is covid-19-health-PPE@gov.scot. It will be monitored continuously and allow us to act to resolve any specific supply issues more quickly.
PERSONAL FINANCE SUPPORT
The Financial Conduct Authority has proposed a range of targeted temporary measures designed as a stopgap to quickly support users of certain consumer credit products who are facing a financial impact because of the coronavirus. After a short consultation it is intended the measures would start by 9 April 2020. The measures are:
- A temporary payment freeze on loans and credit cards where consumers face difficulties with their finances as a result of coronavirus, for up to three months.
- Ensure that for customers who have been hit financially by the coronavirus and already have an arranged overdraft on their main personal current account, up to £500 will be charged at zero interest for up to three months.
- Overdraft customers will be no worse off on price when compared to the prices they were charged before the recent overdraft changes came into force.
- Ensure consumers using any of these temporary measures should not have their credit rating affected because of this.
Scottish Government has withdrawn the section of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill that would suspend jury trials in Scotland. My colleague Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP lodged amendments objecting to the plans, but the Government conceded before the debate in parliament. How we proceed with trials will be discussed before new proposals are brought forward.
People in Scotland have had jury trials for 800 years, through wars, disease and pestilence. People's lives depend on the outcome of these trials. There are ways we can keep jurors safe and keep our justice system intact.