Figures suggest the NHS Test and Trace system isn’t working

Thursday, 4th June 2020, 2:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th June 2020, 2:26 pm
The newly implemented NHS ‘test and trace’ system is said to be “working well” according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Photo: Shutterstock)

The newly implemented NHS ‘test and trace’ system is said to be “working well” according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

But new figures instead suggest that the system is failing to trace the contacts of at least 60 per cent of people who test positive for coronavirus, the Times reports.

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How Test and Trace works

The NHS Test and Trace service went live on 28 May in England, with 25,000 contact tracing staff in place, alongside the capacity to trace 10,000 contacts per day.

The tracers are in place to identify and isolate anyone who has come into contact with a coronavirus sufferer, and the scheme is seen as being key in the effort to prevent a second wave as lockdown restrictions begin to be relaxed.

People who test positive for coronavirus are asked to provide details of anyone they have recently been in close contact with and these people are then contacted and asked to isolate for 14 days.

When announcing the new service, Matt Hancock said, “As we move to the next stage of our fight against coronavirus, we will be able to replace national lockdowns with individual isolation and, if necessary, local action where there are outbreaks.

"This new system will help us keep this virus under control while carefully and safely lifting the lockdown nationally."

Mr Hancock said on Monday (1 June) that the vast majority of new cases had been contacted since it began last Thursday (28 May).

Problematic figures

However, recently disclosed figures show problems at the start of the scheme.

The figures suggest that 1,831 of 4,456 patients (40 per cent) put on the system after testing positive for Covid-19 had provided information about their close contacts, either doing so in an online form or to contact tracers.

Around a third of the 4,634 close contacts that had been provided by those who had coronavirus had then been reached by NHS contact tracers and asked to go into quarantine.

However, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that these figures, which were seen by Channel 4 News and cover from Thursday to Sunday, were “outdated”, and failed “to reflect the huge amount of work under way.”

The DHSC said that it was intending to publish official figures weekly.