The test and trace system is to “go local” as the Government appears to acknowledge that the national system, described as “world beating”, is not fit for purpose.
It follows intense criticism over the reach of the national centralised service, which was set up an awarded to private companies, and its failure to tap into local knowledge to tackle outbreaks of the coronavirus in England.
Last month, it was revealed the system was failing to reach more than half the contacts named by infected people in areas battling acute outbreaks of the virus.
On Monday this week, DHSC announced the NHS Test and Trace programme will now provide local authorities across England with a dedicated team of contact tracers to ensure that as many people as possible are being reached, in what the department described as a “new way of working” and a “more tailored service”.
This could mean people who have been in contact with confirmed coronavirus cases may get a knock on their door if tracers are unable to reach them over the phone.
“As the approach becomes more locally targeted the national service will adjust,” DHSC said. “NHS Test and Trace will reduce current extra capacity and reduce the number of non-NHS call handlers.”
They continued: “Data on the virus continues to be actively monitored through PHE and the Joint Biosecurity Centre so that staff numbers can be quickly scaled up, or down, depending on requirements for the national service and as part of winter preparations.”
An effective system of contact tracing is widely viewed as critical in keeping down the transmission rate of the virus by reaching out to those who have come into close contact with an individual who has tested positive, and urging them to self-isolate for 10 days.
However, last week’s figures showed that thousands of people are still not being reached by the test and trace program mme and the head of outsourcing company Serco, which employs over 10,000 of the tracers, admitted up to a fifth of contacts may be untraceable.
The data added that the national call centers were struggling to reach contacts, with only 56 per cent of close contacts handled online or by call centers being reached and told to self-isolate to stop the spread of the virus.
In stark contrast, a local contact tracing system set up in Blackburn with Darwen Council had reached 90 per cent of the people the Government’s national system was failing to contact in an area with one of the worst Covid-19 infection rates.
Councillor Howard Sykes, LGA Liberal Democrat Leader said
“We said right at the beginning that this should have been locally led and delivered and the Government ignored us. As a result, we saw yet another muti-million pound contract to the private sector, and surprise, surprise they couldn’t deliver what was needed.”
“Local government’s record in delivering public health services at the grass roots has delivered substantial benefits for local communities. Yet again we are having to clean up the mess the Government has created”
“The money now needs to follow so we aren’t lumbered with yet another unfunded Government burden on already over-stretched council budgets”
He was joined by Munira Wilson, the Liberal Democrats’ Health and Social Care Spokesperson, who said: “good ministers have finally listened” to those calling for the NHS Test and Trace service to work more closely with local authorities.
She added: “However, these changes have not only been too slow, but they must also be properly resourced. The fact that it appears that there will be 6,000 fewer tracers is incredibly alarming.”
“Given the multitude of mistakes made by central government throughout the pandemic, this move should not be an excuse for ministers to try and pass the blame should there be further issues with the tracing scheme. An inquiry must be launched now so that all levels of government can learn from the mistakes that have been made, and ensure they work together as effectively as possible to prevent further spread of the virus.”
Birmingham Liberal Democrat Group is looking for a new Group Support Manager.
The Liberal Democrat Group on Birmingham City Council are looking for a new Group Support Manager. As well as supporting the Leader, Deputy and other members there is also a management role for the other member of staff, undertaking research and usual office tasks.
If you know of anyone interested the link is https://www.wmjobs.co.uk/job/78166/liberal-democrat-group-support-manager
If you want to discuss the details of the role then please give Liberal Democrat Group Leader Councillor Jon Hunt a call on 07505 351416