Letter from Liz Morgan, Director of Public Health re: Infectious Disease Incidents

FAO: All Headteachers and Early Years Providers

Dear Headteacher/Manager

As we enter winter and the flu/norovirus season, I thought it would be useful to remind you about the right way to respond to a suspected outbreak of infectious disease or a notification of an infectious disease by a parent or carer as there remains some confusion.  

Our local Public Health England (PHE) North East Health Protection Team (HPT) is there to provide specialist support to prevent and reduce the impact of infectious diseases.  If you are notified of a case of infectious disease in a pupil or staff member, please report it to our local team (0300 303 8596 option 1 / Out of Hours 0191-269-7714) as soon as possible as not all infections require exclusion. Headteachers/managers should contact the HPT as soon as they suspect an outbreak to discuss the situation and agree if any actions are needed. Childcare settings should also telephone our local HPT as soon as possible to report any serious or unusual illness. Our local team can give you additional advice and support as needed.

The HPT will often draft letters and provide factsheets for parents and carers to ensure the most up to date information is given. Schools should always use the HPT proforma letters, rather than their own versions, and follow the advice of the HPT in order to manage any infectious disease incidents.

Deviation from the HPT guidance should be avoided as it potentially exposes a school and pupils to unnecessary risk and can result in avoidable anxiety, stress and financial loss for parents and carers, particularly if the advice is for children to be kept erroneously away from school or brought back from field trips early.

As the Director of Public Health, I have a responsibility to ensure that infectious disease incidents, outbreaks and other health protection scenarios that are likely to affect the public’s health are managed appropriately. As a Local Authority, we expect schools and child care settings to follow the advice of our HPT; this is the best way to protect children and staff.

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