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Re-Starting the NCMP in the Shadow of COVID-19

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‘Re-starting the NCMP …’ was a post originally published on 31st October 2020. We’re re-publishing it now, to reflect the fact that owing to national lockdown nothing re-started in January, as was intended. Consequently, as services resumed from April 2021, a new addendum from PHE requires Providers to take a sample from 10% of schools, this term, rather than 100% as is normal.

Re-starting the NCMP in 2021 is now official policy. Public Health England have just published an addendum to the 2020/21 NCMP Guidelines, called ‘COVID-19: Considerations for delivery of the NCMP’.

It’s a 14-page PDF, which we’ve not only produced a precis for in this blog, but also given you some indication of how you can re-start the NCMP. (Our suggestions are highlighted, to avoid confusion).

You should read this article in conjunction with our other blog on the subject, originally started before the PHE publication, but updated subsequently. That’s called ‘How to Stay Safe During NCMP Campaigns

Why Are We Re-Starting the NCMP in 2021?

Evidence shows that adults with COVID-19 who are overweight or obese are at increased risk of complications. However, evidence on the effect of COVID-19 on children’s risks of complications is limited. This is especially true when we consider changing eating and physical activity observed of children during the pandemic.

Re-starting the NCMP in 2021 is important as it will provide population level data to help understand how COVID-19 has impacted a child’s weight and BMI status.

PHE’s Expectations of Delivery

The following expectations have been set out:

  • PHE requires a SAMPLE of 10% of schools to be taken, rather than universe data, as before.
  • PHE recommends a minimum of 80% participation rate should be achieved to ensure data is representative.
  • Where participation is low due to COVID-19, Providers should  focus on a mix of schools to best represent their local area. This must take into consideration both ethnicity and deprivation.
  • When measuring schools with historically high obesity rates, Providers should offer support through parental engagement.
  • Measure both Year 6 and Reception, as normal.
  • Any prioritisation decisions to be referred to PHE.

 

Providers should consider revising start dates and be flexible. Changing COVID-19 restrictions may cause unavoidable movement in schedules.

Specific Planning Considerations and Adjustments

In consideration of the current, changed circumstances, adjustments to ‘normal’ methods of organising the NCMP have been made, when re-starting the NCMP.

Consideration #1: Participation Rates

Lower than normal participation rates are expected owing to schools opting out. This is down to:

  • visitor restrictions;
  • parents opting out due to perceived infection risk;
  • low attendance due to closure of bubbles; and
  • increased number of home-schooled children.

Adjustments/Mitigations:

The pre-measurement letter for headteachers and parents has been modified to deliver specific information on safety.

Use the SchoolScreener Parent Portal to get messaging directly to parents without delay when restarting the NCMP. It’s used for many in-school nursing activities, not just NCMP.

Consideration #2: Time

Additional time is required for planning purposes and school engagement, to arrange new procedures and requirements.

Adjustments/Mitigations:

  • Add time to follow infection control procedures and for following the schools risk assessments for visitors.
  • Add time to discuss room allocation and where children will wait safely.
  • Schedule school visits to capture as many eligible children as possible

Think about carrying out the NCMP in conjunction with the vision and hearing screening programmes, to minimise overall time spent in school, transmission risks and disruption to learning.

Consideration #3: Staffing

Staff will require additional time for delivering the NCMP in-school.

Adjustments/Mitigations:

  • Limit number of staff undertaking the NCMP and the number of visits to each school.
  • Consider having staff allocated per school bubble.
  • Factor in the time taken to use and clean PPE.

Use SchoolScreener NCMP to see the status of each child in the programme in one dashboard view. Record measurements once, then automatically produce parent letters to send via the SchoolScreener Parent Portal. Also automate reports and all administration, thus optimising staffing levels and minimising risk.

Consideration #4: PPE

The amount of PPE required for measurement needs to be calculated and factored into the programme.

Adjustments/Mitigations:

  • Order PPE and cleaning materials well in advance.
  • Determine disposal processes and requirements of the PPE.

Consideration #5: Parental Engagement

Parental engagement is increasingly important when re-starting the NCMP, under the current circumstances.

Adjustments/Mitigations:

  • Provide additional reassurances about infection control
  • Pre-measurement letter has been adjusted
  • Send letter electronically.

Be aware of the security implications of reliance on email for personal data. Use the SchoolScreener Parent Portal to get messaging directly to parents without delay and in a GDPR-compliant, secure manner. It’s used for many in-school nursing activities, not just NCMP.

Safety When Taking Measurements

It may be practical to take measurements in the classroom, so long as it’s well ventilated. Staff measuring and pupils being measured need to be screened-off; not visible to other pupils and teachers. Staff should be aware that conversations may be overheard under these arrangements.

Regarding infection control, robust hand and respiratory hygiene are essential. As is enhanced cleaning. If staff attend to different bubbles, all surfaces will need to be wiped between them. Measuring equipment should be cleaned frequently.

Finally, on the subject of PPE, as the 2-metre rule cannot be adhered to when measuring a child, staff should follow local guidance. Also, they should ensure PPE is used, as appropriate and safely disposed of. Ensure children are aware of the reasons for your use of PPE. Perhaps introduce yourself before measurement starts to reassure the child.

Feedback Letters

PHE advises against letters being sent via the school. They suggest you should continue to post letters to parents/carers. Letters should be amended to include additional support.

Review the support that’s available in terms of staff availability and the restrictions of using other services.

Conduct support via telephone and remember the impact of lockdown on families.

Thomson Screening advocate using the SchoolScreener Parent Portal in combination with SchoolScreener NCMP. This will allow you to automate administrative processes, end-to-end. You’ll spend less time in schools, which is safer for all. Reduce the risk of fomite transmission by removing the need for any paper. Also, no need for printer ink or the time and money required to post letters.

Data Upload and Use

PHE will support and provide further information regarding data upload. The format of the published data may change.

If there are any changes to data uploads, rest assured that SchoolScreener NCMP will take care of that for you, supplying the required data and formats seamlessly.

In Summary, When Re-Starting the NCMP in 2021

  • It’s important to measure so that we can understand the impact of COVID-19. A representative group needs to be measured. 10% of schools with at least 80% uptake in each.
  • Planning is going to take longer.
  • Measurements are going to take longer.
  • School engagement needs to start happening.
  • Be flexible.

Seriously consider your use of technology to improve safety, reduce the time spent in-school and lower operational costs.

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