A call centre to provide essential information and support to the most vulnerable people in Orkney has been established which will open formally on Monday.
The NHS is notifying all those most at risk – and for whom the new service is aimed at - by letter.
A team of staff and volunteers, from various agencies throughout the county – including Orkney Islands Council, Orkney Health and Care, NHS Orkney and the Third Sector - will be based at the Pickaquoy Centre in Kirkwall and available to provide vital assistance to those most in need.
The Orkney Coronavirus Community Support Hub will not be open to the public but will be staffed to answer telephone calls on the usual number 01856879900, seven days a week, from 9am-5pm. A dedicated email address is also available at email@example.com
Six categories of people at highest risk of severe illness from Covid-19 have been identified by the NHS as:
Maureen Swannie, Orkney Health and Care Head of Service with responsibility for the Hub, explained that all those in high-risk health categories will be receiving letters from the NHS advising that the facility is being established and to call if they need help, whether for accessing medication, food, essential household items or healthcare services.
“We plan to contact everyone who is sent a letter from NHS and assess their need/risk to determine what level of support they require, and what that support looks like.
“The facility will evolve over the next few weeks as we just don’t know what the demand/need will be. We anticipate, that in Orkney, most people will already have family, friends, neighbours helping them to access what they need, but for anyone who doesn’t, the facility may be a lifeline.
“We plan to develop pathways as we go along for the most frequently asked questions and build on this as queries come in.”
Interim measures have been put in place to ensure assistance can be offered this weekend to the most at risk in our communities. Duty Social Work will be a point of contact over the weekend and can be contacted via the Balfour switchboard on 888000.
Staff and volunteers working in the Hub will be required to maintain social distancing, while an enhanced cleaning regime will be in operation at the centre for everyone’s protection.
OIC interim chief executive John Mundell paid tribute to the efforts of staff, including those at the Pickaquoy Centre Trust, in ensuring that the service has been developed as quickly as possible in a bid to shield the most vulnerable folk in Orkney.
“We, along with all other Scottish Local Authorities, were tasked by the Scottish Government to set up these community support hubs, which we are doing at a time when staff and volunteers are already going the extra mile. I must commend the work that is being done.
“The early priorities will be to ensure that the most vulnerable people who need to self-isolate have access to deliveries of food and medicines, and that people who need to can access healthcare services without putting themselves at risk.”
More information will be shared over the coming days.