Public invited to NHS Board meeting

Local people are invited to attend a meeting of the Board of Dudley Integrated Health and Care NHS Trust (DIHC).

The Board meets monthly in different venues around the borough and discusses key issues for the Dudley population and local priorities.

The next meeting takes place on Tuesday 7th February 2023 from 9:30 am until 11:30 am and will be held at Brierley Hill Health and Social Care Centre in Brierley Hill.

People can attend the meeting in person and are invited to submit questions to the Board in advance.

Harry Turner, Chairman for DIHC, said: “Our Board meetings are a great way to find out what is happening locally in health and care and to see how decisions are made.

“We encourage people to come along and join us and see what progress has been made over the last month. We welcome questions from the public and the Board is always keen to hear perspectives from local people.

“If you have a question, please submit in advance of the meeting and we can respond.”

Philip King, Chief Operating Officer for DIHC, said: “This meeting will have a focus on our First Contact Mental Health Practitioners, and we will hear first-hand about the impact their service has with patients.

We will also look at the feedback from our public conversation on High Oak Surgery and consider the next steps.”

Members of the public who would like to attend the meeting or send a question in advance should email

For more information, visit the DIHC website

Last chance to book a COVID-19 booster vaccine

People in the Black Country are being reminded to book a COVID-19 booster vaccine before it’s too late.  

To date, people aged 16 and over have been eligible to receive an initial booster dose, whilst adults aged 50 and over, care home residents, the severely immunosuppressed and frontline health and care workers have been eligible for an autumn booster dose.    
Now, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that an offer of an initial booster dose should end when the current autumn booster programme ends.  
This means that Sunday 12 February will be the last chance for anyone who has been invited for a COVID-19 booster to book an appointment via the National Booking System, or by calling 119.  
Sally Roberts, Chief Nursing Officer for the NHS Black Integrated Care Board, said: “In the Black Country, we have delivered more than 2 million vaccinations to date, which is a fantastic achievement.  
“Thanks to the success of the booster programme, and the hundreds of thousands of people who have already come forward for a vaccine, the NHS is now in a position to pause the booster rollout.

“If you are eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccine, whether that’s an initial booster dose or an autumn booster, please come forward before it’s too late. The vaccine will top up your immunity against the virus and keep you and your loved ones protected.

“The offer of a first and second dose will still be available for those who are yet to come forward, so please do take up the offer as soon as you can.”
The JCVI has also advised that for a smaller group of people, such as those who are older and those who are immunosuppressed, an extra booster vaccine dose in the spring should also be planned for. Further advice regarding the spring booster will be provided soon.

There are a number of pop-up clinics in the Black Country offering first and second doses and will continue to offer booster doses on a walk-in basis until the end of March. For more information, please visit the Black Country ICB website here.

Doctors urging parents to support the HARMONIE Study

Doctors from across the West Midlands are asking parents of newborn babies, up to 12 months old, to support a new respiratory virus study.

The HARMONIE Research Study follows on from other completed research and looks at how strongly babies can be protected against serious illness from a Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infection by giving them a single antibody dose.

The antibody used in the study has recently been approved by both the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

This preventative solution is the result of many years of research by Sanofi and AstraZeneca and has already been given to more than 3000 babies.

However, more research is needed to help find more options to combat RSV infections which are a leading cause of infant hospitalisation and serious illness in otherwise healthy babies.

Dr Lucy Martin – Joint Acting Medical Director at Dudley Integrated Health and Care NHS Trust said:

“For some babies, an RSV infection can cause severe problems and it is difficult to identify which babies will require medical care due to the unpredictability of the illness.

“The study we are conducting is being run from the Brierley Hill Health and Social Care Centre at the Research Hub within High Oak Surgery.  Anyone can take part, your baby doesn’t have to be a registered patient at High Oak.

“We would urge parents to reach out and take part – you can make a real impact on how RSV is managed in the future.”

For more information, or to take part in the study, please visit

Black Country NHS innovates through winter

New facilities, exciting digital innovations and thousands of extra appointments are just some of the ways the NHS in the Black Country has been working to manage unprecedented pressures this winter. 

The Black Country was one of the best performing areas in the West Midlands for urgent care during December, despite record levels of demand. The system had some of the lowest A&E waiting times in the region, even though local emergency departments saw nearly 20,000 more patients than they did in December 2021. 
Health leaders from across the hospital, primary care and community sectors have been working together to stand up a wide range of new ways of working, all aimed at supporting the NHS to help patients during the winter months. 
These include: 
  • A system control centre that monitors demand on urgent care services across the Black Country in real time and supports NHS trusts to help each other during times of peak pressure.
  • Updated configurations in hospitals to improve patient flow, including a new ambulance receiving centre in Wolverhampton and a dedicated discharge hub in Sandwell.
  • “Virtual wards” are freeing up hospital beds by enabling suitable patients to be monitored from the comfort of their own home and have cared for more than 3,500 adults and children to date. Dudley’s pilot virtual children’s ward was a national first and has since been rolled out to all other Black Country trusts.
  • New ways of working in primary care, including more than 5,000 evening and weekend GP appointments every week, plus additional appointments with a range of professionals to ensure people are seen by the right clinician for their level of need. These changes mean around 4,000 more primary care appointments are now being delivered each month than before the pandemic.
  • Dedicated community hubs offering same day, face-to-face GP appointments for children and young people with respiratory symptoms (those affecting the lungs and airways). The pilot hub in Sandwell saw more than 9,000 patients in its first year and was able to add extra capacity to support worried parents during the recent rise in strep A infections.

Richard Beeken, Chief Executive of Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust and urgent and emergency care lead for the Black Country, said: “The NHS and our partners across the system were in no doubt that this was set to be our most challenging winter yet, but it is our duty to work together to ensure we continue to deliver the best services we can for local people.

“I am proud of how our staff across the Black Country have stepped up to see us all through this pressured period – from those who devised and embedded innovations that have fundamentally improved how we deliver urgent care, through to those working flat out on the front lines providing compassion and quality care to patients needing our services. However, we recognise that some patients are waiting for longer than we would want, and we apologise for this.”

Jonathan Fellows, Chair of NHS Black Country Integrated Care Board, said: “This has been a tough winter: we have seen hundreds hospitalised by aggressive strains of the flu, a major cold snap that impacted the health of some of our most vulnerable citizens, a surge in strep A infections in children that was very worrying for parents and carers, and all while COVID-19 was still circulating in the community.

“I want to thank all our NHS staff for their hard work this winter, as well as the local people who are supporting us at this time by using our services appropriately. The NHS is very much open and here for you, so if you are worried about anything please don’t hesitate to come forward – use NHS 111 online in the first instance to get fast advice and ensure you’re seen by the right expert at the right time.”

Staying well in cold weather

Local health chiefs have issued important guidance following the cold weather alert.

The Met Office, in conjunction with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), has issued a level 3 cold weather alert from Monday 16th January 2023, as severe winter weather is forecast.

A level 3 alert is issued when temperatures are expected to drop to 2 degrees or less for 48 hours or longer, and/or widespread ice and heavy snow is predicted.

In the Black Country, forecasters have predicted a fall in daytime temperatures with widespread overnight frosts, with temperatures reaching below freezing this week. The level 3 alert is in place until 9.00 am on Friday 20 January.

People are encouraged to take extra precautions to keep safe while the alerts are in place, such as checking on vulnerable friends and neighbours, keeping food and medications in stock and ensuring homes are adequately heated.

Dr Ananta Dave, Chief Medical Officer for NHS Black Country Integrated Care Board, said:

“Taking extra care during cold weather is really important, particularly for people who are more vulnerable to suffering ill health due to the cold, such as babies and very young children, older people, pregnant women and people with pre-existing medical conditions.

“It is recommended that we should heat our homes to at least 18 Celsius in winter as this minimises risks to our health. If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day and your bedroom just before you go to bed.

“Try to avoid going out in cold icy weather but if you do need to go outside wear shoes with slip-resistant grip and wear a few layers of thin clothing rather than one thick layer to trap in heat. It is also important that you have frequent hot food and drinks as these can help to keep you warm.

“Make sure you also take the current weather alert into account when planning any activity over the following few days and try to avoid exposing yourself to cold or icy outdoor conditions, especially if you are at a higher risk of cold-related illness or falls.

“We are also asking everyone to remember the needs of friends, relatives and neighbours who could be at risk during this period of cold weather. If you, or they, are eligible for a COVID-19 autumn booster or flu vaccination, please make sure you get it as soon as you can.”

For more advice on staying well in cold weather, visit the NHS website here.