Health protection seeks to protect individuals and communities from the impact of infectious diseases and environmental hazards as well as ensuring we are prepared for and able to respond to emergencies.
An effective local health protection response is vital to improve health and wellbeing, protect the local economy, and reduce health inequalities.
The pandemic has heightened the profile of health protection, and while a challenging period it provided us with significant learning and important lessons we need to build on moving forward. As we recover and learn to live with COVID-19 now is the right time to refresh our local strategic approach to health protection in Wirral.
Wirral Health Protection Strategy (2023 - 2027)
The Wirral Health Protection Strategy sets out our collective approach to ensuring we have a resilient health protection system in Wirral. The strategy outlines what we aim to achieve and where we will focus our efforts for the next four years.
No single agency can address these issues in isolation, protecting the health of the people of Wirral from infectious diseases and environmental hazards requires collaborative action.
Therefore, the strategy has been developed following wide consultation and outlines how local partners will work effectively together to achieve our collectively agreed vision, aims and objectives.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest global and domestic health challenge in recent history. It is essential that lessons from this experience are learned and built upon to enhance service delivery and system resilience. It is imperative to restore service provision whilst also remaining prepared for possible future waves of COVID-19 and/or other respiratory infections. It is also essential to build on this learning to bring about positive change and renewal so that collectively, through strengthened relationships, the greatest possible improvements for everyone can be supported.
Please visit our dedicated COVID-19 section of the website for all content related to the pandemic, including pages COVID-19: Data, COVID-19: Impact and COVID-19: Response.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of infection prevention and control (IPC) measures to prevent against the spread of infectious diseases. Locally, we have excellent specialist infection prevention and control teams within our local trusts and the community. However, IPC is everybody’s business and organisations need to take ownership of challenges and solutions to keep patients, professionals and communities safe. Public awareness of the importance of following the rules of good hygiene was also raised during the pandemic; these simple measures (e.g., hand washing), remain the key tools in helping prevent infections.
Reducing healthcare-associated infections (HCAI) such as Escherichia Coli (E. Coli), remains a high priority locally as HCAI pose a serious risk to patients, increasing morbidity, mortality and excess costs, all of which can be prevented through effective collaborative action.
Please see the Wirral IPC Fingertips Profile for available data in this area.
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is the ability of bacteria to become resistant to the effect of antimicrobial “agents” (i.e. disinfectants, antiseptics and antibiotics). It is a naturally occurring process, but has however, been exacerbated by the misuse and overuse of these agents, perhaps more prominently, the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals.
AMR is a national and global priority, currently estimated to cause around 2,000 deaths a year in the UK and over 700,000 deaths globally, which will continue to worsen unless action is taken. In 2018, there were over 60,000 severe antibiotic-resistant infections in England, an increase of 9% on the previous year. This number is predicted to increase, meaning deaths due to AMR are also predicted to rise.
Resistant infections often fail to respond to standard treatments, resulting in prolonged illness, higher health care costs and a greater mortality risk. Without effective antibiotics, even minor surgery and routine operations could become high-risk procedures.
Please see the Wirral AMR Fingertips Profile for available data in this area.
Vaccines protect against serious disease and premature death, helping people of all ages to live longer, healthier lives. The national childhood vaccination programme protects children against diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, meningitis, mumps, measles and rubella. The annual flu vaccination programme offers free flu vaccination to primary school children, those over 65 years of age and those with a long-term health condition.
Immunisation programmes are both cost and clinically effective approaches to improving population health and are a key statutory requirement for the local health system. Meeting nationally agreed targets around vaccines being offered as well as uptake is an important indicator of quality care.
Please see the Wirral Vaccine Uptake Fingertips Profile for available data in this area.
Other local documents:
Rapid review for increasing uptake of 0-5 vaccinations and cancer screening (November 2022)
The COVID-19 pandemic has required an extended and unprecedented response on a global scale, lasting over two years. This means that locally the Emergency Preparedness Resilience and Response (EPRR) functions have been running for a longer period than they were intended to. This shows the importance of why local organisations must collectively plan for and respond to a wide range of incidents and emergencies that could affect health or patient care. These could be anything from extreme weather conditions or an outbreak of an infectious disease or a major transport accident.
The World Health Organisation describe air pollution as the greatest environmental threat to health and a leading cause of non-communicable disease, such as heart attack or stroke. Environmental hazards such as water and air pollution, extreme weather, or chemical exposures can affect human health in a number of ways, from contributing to chronic diseases such as cancer, to acute illnesses.
Climate change can affect the social and environmental determinants of health – by jeopardising access to clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. In addition, the adverse effects of climate change (such as flooding) can affect mental health and wellbeing. It is also causing long term changes to our weather patterns with increased incidence of hotter, drier summers and longer, wetter winters. These changes will lead to increased incidence of heatwaves and extreme cold, which in recent years has resulted in excess deaths.
Please see the Wirral Environment Health Fingertips Profile for available data in this area.
Joint Strategic Needs Assessment
JSNA: Air Quality (October 2022)
JSNA: Outdoor Air Quality (November 2019)
JSNA: Food Safety (June 2018)
Reduce the harmful impact to health of Tuberculosis and blood-borne viruses, including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV
The COVID-19 pandemic has both highlighted the importance of and impacted on the detection, control and prevention of infectious diseases, including HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and Tuberculosis (TB). The most deprived and underserved populations have been disproportionately and adversely affected, including in the prevention, testing, diagnosis and delay in treatment. Although new infections have reduced over the years and national strategies have had great impact in reducing blood borne virus infections and TB in England, the elimination of these communicable diseases is still to be reached.
Please see the Wirral Hepatitis B & C, Tuberculosis and HIV Fingertips Profile for available data in this area.
For more information, please visit the Housing, Environment and Climate and Health and Wellbeing (Adults) sections of our interactive State of the Borough report