Test and trace reaches just 63% of contacts in worst week so far

15 October 2020, 15:29 | Updated: 15 October 2020, 16:50

NHS test and trace reached just 63% of contact this week
NHS test and trace reached just 63% of contact this week. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The UK test and trace system reached just 63 per cent of close contacts last week, the lowest percentage recorded so far.

The figures come amid a rise in coronavirus cases across the UK, with several areas including the capital being moved into Tier 2 of the government's Covid-19 ranking system.

The Department of Health figures showed that the Test and Trace system failed to find 81,000 contacts of Covid-19 cases in England in the first week of October.

It means that one in five Covid-19 positive patients had not been reached for at least three days.

Despite the figures showing the worst week so far on record for contact tracing, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the system is "reaching a record number of people faster than ever."

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Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth also declared the figures to be another "record blow" to the Government's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

"The British people have made a huge sacrifice already and we are heading into the bleakest of winters," he said.

"Much of this could have been avoided if the misfiring Test and Trace system had been fixed over the summer. Today the new figures show just 62 per cent of contacts were reached. That's equivalent to 81,000 not reached, circulating in society, even though they've been exposed to the virus.

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"This is another record blow and yesterday we learnt that consults working on Test and Trace are being paid over £6,000 a day to run this failing service. In a single week the Government is paying these senior consultants more than they pay an experienced nurse in a year.

"So can the Secretary of State explain why such huge sums of money are being paid to consultants to run a service that is only getting worse?'

His comments come amid the news that private sector consultants are reportedly being paid £7,000 a day by the Government to work on Test and Trace.

Documents revealed the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) was paid £10 million for four months work to pay around 40 consultants, Sky News reported.

The broadcaster said the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) received a 10 to 15% discount from BCG, whose day rates for public sector work range from £2,400 to £7,360 for the most senior consultants.

Its report comes amid ongoing criticism of the Government's £12 billion test and trace system.The DHSC said efforts to set up NHS Test and Trace required it to work with public and private sector partners, with "every pound spent" going towards keeping people safe and ramping up testing capacity.

Major companies such as Deloitte, PwC and BCG have been working on the Government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic, managing the track and trace system, the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the search to produce working ventilators.

Mr Ashworth added: "Look around, explain Health Secretary why not do a circuit breaker now. Because if we do this in a few weeks or a few months time more lives and livelihoods will be lost."

Matt Hancock responded: "He mentions Test and Trace, but the figures show there have actually been a record high number of people who have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

"Reaching more people, testing more people faster than at any other point and he might have seen that yesterday internationally this was commented on as an area where we have done well here in the UK.

"So, of course we want to make sure we get things even faster and we have an even greater testing capacity but I think we'd do better to reflect on the progress that has been made."

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has also urged the Government to announce a date by which it would be able to test every citizen for coronavirus every week.

"Is not now the time to announce a date, whether it is February, March, April in next year, by when every single person in the population will be tested every week so that by then irrespective of progress on a vaccine, irrespective of the success of local lockdowns, irrespective of other uncertainties, with have a date by when we know we will get the virus under control and we know we have some prospect of returning to normality.'