Matt Hancock tells LBC Test and Trace chiefs "need our thanks"

26 October 2020, 08:50

By Fiona Jones

Matt Hancock insisted NHS Test and Trace chiefs "need our thanks" after Nick Ferrari confronted him over last week's figures which showed the scheme reached the least amount of close contacts since it began.

Nick Ferrari suggested Baroness Dido Harding should no longer lead NHS Test and Trace as senior Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin has called for her to be axed, amongst others.

Concerns over her suitability come amid fears that the programme is failing to get the number of Covid-19 cases under control.

Last week's figures showed that less than 60% of close contacts of people who tested positive for coronavirus were being reached, the lowest number since the scheme began.

The health secretary said he "of course" has confidence in the Baroness "because yesterday we delivered a third of a million tests."

Nick countered that it was quality not quantity, and it is more important for people to know the result of their test and for the relevant people to be contacted around them.

"Last week was worse than the week before," Nick said, and when Mr Hancock denied this, Nick assured him these were the correct figures.

"Is there not an argument to just hold the number and get up the turnaround rate?" he asked Mr Hancock.

The health secretary responded: "I think it's impossible to understand what's going on in this system unless you actually look at the number of people we're successfully testing and contacting."

He said the scheme is set to test half a million people by the end of the month, and the number of people asked to isolate is over a million.

"This system, which is over the size of Tesco, has been built over the last six months," Mr Hancock said, branding this feat "extraordinary."

Nick commented that if Tesco performed at this level of success "it would no longer be with us", asking how Matt Hancock could convince the country about Test and Trace when he cannot convince senior Tory MPs.

"We're constantly every single day making improvements to it," he said, "I think the leadership of Test and Trace need our thanks...the number of people they've managed to contact in the last fortnight is double what it was the fortnight before. It's extraordinary growth of a really really important service."