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Test and Trace is STILL a shambles: 100,000 Covid cases were missed over the winter

The ‘world-beating’ Test and Trace system missed nearly 100,000 positive cases during the winter, a damning report reveals today.

Figures from the National Audit Office show that while 724,000 patients tested positive for Covid-19 between November and April, only 625,000 were reached and asked for their close contacts.

The report also reveals that only one in seven of the lateral flow tests sent out between October and May have been registered as used.

Its findings are a further blow to the Test and Trace system’s former head, Baroness Harding, who is applying to run the NHS.

Baroness Harding was appointed as chief executive of the programme in May last year. 

At the time, Boris Johnson promised the system would be ‘world-beating’, but it has since been heavily criticised by scientists and public officials for having only a minimal impact.

Test and Trace consultancy firms working for the NHS are being paid sums which equate to an average of £163,000 a consultant. (Stock image)

Figures from the National Audit Office show that while 724,000 patients tested positive for Covid-19 between November and April, only 625,000 were reached and asked for their close contacts. Its findings are a further blow to the Test and Trace system's former head, Baroness Harding (above), who is applying to run the NHS

Figures from the National Audit Office show that while 724,000 patients tested positive for Covid-19 between November and April, only 625,000 were reached and asked for their close contacts. Its findings are a further blow to the Test and Trace system’s former head, Baroness Harding (above), who is applying to run the NHS

Baroness Harding stepped down from her role in April and last week, formally applied to be chief executive of NHS England, succeeding Sir Simon Stevens who is leaving at the end of next month.

The NAO’s progress report says the system is still struggling to get to grips with the basics such as tracing close contacts and encouraging people to self-isolate.

Matt Hancock could face parliamentary ban 

Matt Hancock could face a parliamentary ban over his links to a family firm that has won NHS contracts.

The Health Secretary declared in April that he owns shares in a document shredding company run by his sister and her husband. 

Matt Hancock could face a parliamentary ban over his links to a family firm that has won NHS contracts

Matt Hancock could face a parliamentary ban over his links to a family firm that has won NHS contracts

Mr Hancock, pictured, was found to have broken the ministerial code by not declaring his interest earlier. 

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is now investigating.

Sources close to him called it a ‘technical issue’ and said all processes were followed ‘diligently’.

The flaws were exposed at the height of the second wave in December when just 17 per cent of PCR tests – those which are sent to a lab – were returned within 24 hours.

The situation is no better with lateral flow tests – the pregnancy-style kits taken at home. 

Just 14 per cent of the 691 million sent out by Test and Trace between October and May have been registered as used.

This is likely to be partly because people haven’t bothered to record negative results, but it nonetheless shows a lack of public compliance.

Most worrying, however, are the figures showing that 99,000 positive cases were missed between November and April, because of the implications for the spread of the virus. 

These people would have not been told to self-isolate and nor would their close contacts, many of whom would have been infected themselves.

Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said the system still faced some ‘pressing challenges’, despite endeavouring to make key changes.

These include understanding how many lateral flow tests are actually being used and increasing public compliance in coming forward for tests and self-isolation, he added.

Labour MP Meg Hillier, who is chairman of the public accounts select committee, said: ‘It is deeply disappointing that more progress hasn’t been made. 

NHS Test and Trace is still plagued by the same issues as at the start of the year.

‘NHS Test and Trace needs to get to grips with some fundamental parts of the process.

‘As we learn to live with Covid, NHS Test and Trace must urgently improve performance to deliver the effective Test and Trace system we so badly need.’

The system was launched to trace the close contacts of anyone who tested positive for the virus and instruct them to self-isolate.

But it was beset with problems from the start and many employees hired to trace contacts were unable to log on to their computer systems.

Others revealed how they had nothing to do all day and were being paid to watch Netflix, while thousands of positive cases were missed and their close contacts never traced.

A scathing report by the public accounts committee in March revealed that the system had failed in its primary objective of preventing a lockdown, despite costing the taxpayer £37 billion.

Dr Billy Palmer, senior fellow at the Nuffield Trust think-tank, said: ‘Test and trace is now over a year old but is still falling seriously short of its performance targets despite the eye-watering cost to the taxpayer.’  

Baroness Harding stepped down from her role in April and last week, formally applied to be chief executive of NHS England, succeeding Sir Simon Stevens who is leaving at the end of next month

Baroness Harding stepped down from her role in April and last week, formally applied to be chief executive of NHS England, succeeding Sir Simon Stevens who is leaving at the end of next month

The NAO's progress report says the system is still struggling to get to grips with the basics such as tracing close contacts and encouraging people to self-isolate

The NAO’s progress report says the system is still struggling to get to grips with the basics such as tracing close contacts and encouraging people to self-isolate

The system was launched to trace the close contacts of anyone who tested positive for the virus and instruct them to self-isolate

The system was launched to trace the close contacts of anyone who tested positive for the virus and instruct them to self-isolate


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