Politics

Take a look at and Hint overlooked almost 600 million Covid assessments

HuffPost / Getty ImagesTest and Trace, run by Tory peer Dido Harding, has already come under fire for its use by private companies.

Boris Johnson’s £ 37 billion test and trace service faces renewed criticism after a scathing new report found it lost track of nearly 600 million Covid tests.

The National Audit Office’s spending watchdog concluded that the system still cannot “deliver value to taxpayers” as there are no targets for public self-isolation and continues to rely on private advisors.

Test and Trace, headed by Tory peer Dido Harding, has already come under fire for its efforts by private companies Serco and Deloitte and its repeated failure in 2020 to track down people with Covid.

The latest report highlights a number of issues, including paying for unused staff who are not being used, the use of emergency procurement powers that award uncompetitive contracts, and a lack of data sharing with local health authorities that counteract efforts Outbreaks hindered

In the six months from November last year to April this year, almost 100,000 people who tested positive for Covid were not reached and their contacts, which could potentially infect others, were not identified.

The NAO also criticized Matt Hancock’s decision to move into a new UK health agency, saying there was “a risk that the restructuring will divert NHST & T’s attention from efforts to contain the spread of the virus”.

It has given the government until October to resolve the issues, including how it will “best assist citizens in registering for tests and complying with self-isolation requirements” – a clear signal that the Watchdog believes the public needs higher home quarantine payments.

Labor pounced on the report, suggesting that it should ruin former Test and Trace chief Harding’s chances to become the next executive director of the NHS.

Shadow Health Secretary Justin Madders said, “I would suggest that this is important reading for the interview panel in case there is even the slightest possibility that they will consider her appointment.

“This report is devastating. The government has been told over and over to make sure that people can self-isolate if we are to end cases, but they have refused to listen.

“If lateral flow tests are to do their part in reopening society, ministers must ensure that the results are recorded – it is amazing that 550,000,000 tests have disappeared.”

Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesHealth Secretary Matt Hancock

The report found that only a small fraction of the Covid tests distributed were registered as used.

Test and Trace had forecast that 655 million lateral flow tests would be performed in the UK between March and May 2021.

However, as of May 26, only 96 million (14%) of the 691 million tests distributed in England had been registered. “NHST & T does not know whether the tests that were not registered were used or not,” it said.

NAO chief Gareth Davies said Test and Trace has made many changes since its last scathing report, including mass testing, working more closely with local authorities and initiatives to identify and contain variants of Covid.

“However, there are some pressing challenges that need to be addressed in order to meet its goals and add value for taxpayers, including understanding how many lateral flow devices are actually being used and increasing public adherence to testing and self-isolation,” said he.

Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier noted that the report found that 45% of Test and Trace’s employees at headquarters were still private advisors, despite Harding’s promise to reduce their numbers and replace them with civil servants to replace.

“Test and Trace employed more consultants in April 2021 than in November 2022. Although they are almost a year old, nearly half of the core workforce are consultants,” said Hillier.

“Testing and tracing is likely to take some time yet, and it’s hard to see why these roles aren’t now perpetual or fixed-term contracts. The danger is that the institutional memory disappears when the consultants run away with their heavy paychecks. “

The latest report shows that, while Test and Trace has added flexibility to its contact center contracts, it “still pays for capacity it doesn’t use” in its testing and tracing activities.

The “occupancy rate” – the percentage of time someone was actively working on their paid horse – had a target of 50%, but in reality the rates have been significantly lower since November 2020, with a high of 49% in January and down to just 11% in February.

The unit cost per tracked contact increased from around £ 5 in October to £ 47 in February.

The NAO found that Test and Trace used £ 13.5 billion of its budget of £ 22.2 billion over the 2020-21 period, an under-spending of £ 8.7 billion. Of this, £ 10.4 billion was used for testing, £ 1.8 billion for local outbreak identification and containment, and £ 900 million for tracing.

Test and Trace told the NAO that the under-spending was due to a projected high demand for tests not occurring in January and February 2021 due to the national lockdown.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Welfare said it has started a research program to understand the low rate of test registration and is working to raise public awareness of the need to register results and improve the ability to track tests .

“NHS Test and Trace has played a vital role in combating this pandemic and the NAO has recognized many of the rapid improvements we have made in the short lifespan of this organization.

“The testing and tracing carried out across the country is saving lives every day and helping us to send this virus into retreat by breaking chains of transmission and detecting outbreaks wherever they exist.

“While NHS Test and Trace continues to be one of the core pieces of our roadmap to normalizing life, our new UK health security agency will consolidate the vast expertise that is now in our health system so we can address potential future threats” and viruses. “

The government insists that since May 28, 2020, the system has successfully identified over 3.4 million positive cases and notified an additional 7.1 million contacts to ask them to self-isolate. Rapid tests have recorded over 213,082 Covid cases with no symptoms.

It is alleged that the large number of consultants was critical in gaining access to certain skills and abilities in order to provide operational performance. The DHSC is also evaluating several pilot approaches to improve compliance with self-isolation.

Pascale Robinson, Campaigner at We Own It said: “It is now perfectly clear that, despite the millions and millions of pounds being handed over to private companies, it has been proven to have failed to provide a working system that left us needless and without decisive defense against Covid transmissions leaves lives at risk.

“With the spread of new variants in our communities, it is clear that we urgently need a functioning contact tracing system with the vaccination program.”

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