NHS cuts 2,000 test and trace jobs as Covid rates soar across UK
Contact tracing team slashed from 12,000 to 10,000
A total of 2,000 contact tracer roles has been slashed from the NHS Track and Trace service in recent weeks despite growing pressure on the system amid rising infection rates, Whitehall sources have revealed.
The Department of Health last night “said the move was about allocating more roles to regional teams to work with councils following criticism that the centrally run system was failing to tackle local outbreaks”, the Daily Mail reports. But MPs told the newspaper there was “no evidence” that resources are being redeployed locally.
Former culture minister Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP for Exeter, said that “it has been clear for a long time that the tracing element of test and trace is in collapse”.
The tracer role cuts come after a further 6,000 Test and Trace staff were axed in August.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly said that effective testing and tracing is vital in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
That message was echoed by Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, in an article published in The Guardian on Saturday.
The “most important” tool to bringing infection rates under control is “a robust system for testing, tracing and isolating, where test results are returned within 24 hours, at least 80% of people’s contacts are reached and there is high adherence to a rule of 14 days’ isolation for those exposed to the virus”, Sridhar wrote.
Last week, just 69% of close contacts of people in the UK who tested positive were reached - the lowest rate since test and trace launched.
The UK yesterday reported 12,872 new Covid cases, and 65 related deaths. The total official death tally for the nation now stands at 42,915, according to latest figures.
Newly published polling results reveal that just 20% of the public think the current test and trace system is working. The survey of 3,000 people for Politics Home last week found that 62% did not think the test and trace system is effective, while the remaining 18% were undecided.