Contact tracer staff say they 'have no work to do' - as figures show 15,225 people reached

25 June 2020, 11:27

Test and trace workers have said they are left knitting and browsing netflix
Test and trace workers have said they are left knitting and browsing netflix. Picture: PA
Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

People working as contact tracers in the NHS Test and Trace system have told today how they are being left with "hardly any work" to do and are answering "maybe one call" each day.

Figures released today show 20,968 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England went through the system and 15,225 of them have been reached and asked to give details of their recent contacts.

But some workers who joined teams helping to lift the country out of lockdown have said they don't have enough to do and are often met with hostile responses on calls.

"There's hardly any work" said one worker, Roger, "we get maybe one call a day, and then when you do get that call, you phone them up, and no one picks up."

Worker Holly said she had done 60/70 hours so far, to have had only "one call, which went to voicemail."

She told LBC that she cannot believe she still hasn't spoken to a single person, sitting for hours on shifts, refreshing the page, and picking up her knitting to pass the time.

Roger said he had been watching lots of Netflix to fill the gaps.

Holly said the pay rate "goes between 17 and 27 pounds an hour.

"Appalling really, it's really sad. Because I think we're all paying all this money to get back to a normal way of living.

"And we're just not getting the work to do it.

"I can't complain about the pay. But I don't feel like I'm earning it, because I'm not."

Roger said on the rare occasions he does get a job through the person on the other end of the phone isn't always receptive.

One man spoke to him perfectly well about his family and contacts, but as soon as he was told he'd now have to self isolate for 14 days – he suddenly pretended to not speak any English, and hung up the phone.

"I tried to escalate it and to go to a higher person, but nobody picked up."

Both workers also complained that on their script of prescribed questions is one about the non-existent coronavirus app.

The app has been delayed after the Government spent millions of pounds to find it didn't work before switching to new technology.

Holly said: "One of the questions as you go through is, 'have you been using the NHS app?' But they can't have done because it doesn't exist!"

Figures released today show that a total of 20,968 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England had their case transferred to the NHS Test and Trace contact tracing system during the first three weeks of its operation.

The Department of Health & Social Care said that of this total, 15,225 people (73%) were reached and asked to provide details of recent contacts.

The figures cover the period May 28 to June 17.

In response a DHSC spokesperson said: “The new NHS Test and Trace service is up and running and is helping save lives.

"Anyone in this country can now book a test and the majority who book a test get the results back within a day.

“We have over 27,000 contact tracers in place, who have all been trained and are fully supported in their work by public health experts.

“The public has taken their civic duty during the pandemic extremely seriously, and we need everyone to continue playing their part.”