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Dido Harding’s deputy in Test & Trace ‘lost it’ during months of chaos

Dido Harding’s deputy in Test & Trace ‘lost it’ during months of chaos and was forced to seek help from psychiatrist colleague

  • Sarah-Jane Marsh acted as director of testing at Test & Trace until six weeks ago 
  • She was forced to seek help from NHS psychiatrist colleague after ‘losing it’  
  • Test & Trace cost £22billion of taxpayers’ money but has had lots of problems 

Dido Harding’s second in command at Test & Trace ‘lost it’ during months of chaos and was even forced to seek help from a psychiatrist whom she cried to. 

Sarah-Jane Marsh acted as director of testing at Test & Trace until six weeks ago and said that the chaos surrounding the roll-out of the scheme made her feel she ‘couldn’t make decisions’. 

She was forced to seek help from an NHS psychiatrist after she crashed her car but carried on driving without stopping. 

Test & Trace cost £22billion of taxpayers’ money but has been beleaguered with problems since its inception in May. 

Sarah-Jane Marsh (pictured) acted as director of testing at Test & Trace until six weeks ago and said that the chaos surrounding the roll-out of the scheme made her feel she ‘couldn’t make decisions’

The testing system collapsed in September and left people having to journey hundreds of miles for tests.  

Sage, the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, then said that the system only had a ‘marginal impact’ on tackling coronavirus.  

Ms Marsh opened up about the drama behind the scenes on the Next Generation GP health podcast. 

According to the Telegraph, she said: ‘I found a place where I lost it, which has never happened to me before.

‘I’ve got several examples in my mind of where I literally thought I couldn’t go on. I’ve got nothing left.’ 

Test & Trace cost £22billion of taxpayers' money but has been beleaguered with problems since its inception in May. Pictured: Dido Harding

Test & Trace cost £22billion of taxpayers’ money but has been beleaguered with problems since its inception in May. Pictured: Dido Harding

The number of Covid-19 cases transferred to the contact tracing system and the number of those that were reached is shown above for the week ending November 4

The number of Covid-19 cases transferred to the contact tracing system and the number of those that were reached is shown above for the week ending November 4

She added that she just wanted to ‘make it stop’ but had to continue. Ms Marsh’s director of laboratories used to be a psychiatrist. 

She said: ‘So we had little things offline and sometimes we just looked at each other and had a little cry.’ 

Ms Marsh said she left Test & Trace to be able to spend more time with her two young children. 

She has now returned to her job as chief executive of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital. 

BUNGLING TEST AND TRACE HIT BY HUGE IT PROBLEMS 

NHS Test and Trace was hit by ‘huge IT problems’ in October that led to delays in squashing coronavirus outbreaks in care homes, according to leaked emails. 

NHS staff revealed an IT failure occurred in mid-October at a crucial point of the second wave of the pandemic, when infections were rising all over England. 

It caused problems in the software used by contact tracers who phone people who have been in close proximity to a Covid-19 case. 

Sources told The Guardian it led to delays of up to 48 hours in reaching potentially infected people linked to care homes and hospitals, home to the most vulnerable people to Covid-19, in some of England’s Covid-19 hotspots. 

Data shows performance dropped to record lows in that week, with only 43.6 per cent of close contacts reached. Scientists have said 80 per cent must be reached in 24 hours to halt the spread of the coronavirus.    

How does the NHS Test and Trace system work? 

For those with symptoms: 

Step 1: Isolate for at least 10 days. Your household must also isolate for at least 14 days from symptoms developing.

Step 2: Order a free NHS test online or call 119 to speak to someone.

Step 3: If you are positive you must isolate for at least 10 days and your household for at least 14 days – those who don’t face fines starting at £1,000. Those who are negative can leave.

Step 4: If you test positive, you should fill in details of those you have been in direct contact with recently on the NHS Test and Trace website. If you don’t respond within 24 hours, the NHS may contact local authorities to follow-up by phone or in person.

Contacts

The NHS contact tracers will then attempt to track down those you have been in contact with. They will warn those people to isolate if necessary. Those people must isolate for at least 14 days from the contact with the person – or risk a fine starting at £1,000. People in that person’s household do not have to isolate, if you do not have symptoms.

If you do have symptoms, you are asked to contact the NHS Test and Trace system for a test. If your test is positive, you must continue to stay at home for at least 10 days and we will get in touch to ask about your contacts since they must self-isolate. If your test is negative, you must still complete your 14-day self-isolation period. 

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