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6,000 contact tracers to be axed as NHS Test and Trace diverts to local approach


By Awil Mohamoud
Reporter
11 August 2020

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Contact tracers working for the national NHS Test and Trace system will be redeployed later this month to help individual local authorities track down potential Covid-19 cases, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said. 

NHS Test and Trace staff will be asked to focus their work on specific geographical areas across the country in a bid to reach more people testing positive and their contacts.

As a result, the number of existing contact tracing staff will be cut from 18,000 to 12,000 on 24 August, DHSC said.  

‘Tailored service’

The new system, which is now being offered to all upper tier local authorities responsible for public health locally, has been introduced to ‘provide a more tailored service’, DHSC said. 

It comes after a handful of local authorities recently rolled out their own contact tracing systems in partnership with Public Health England (PHE), following the national system’s failure to reach potential cases within their communities. 

Under the new approach, local public health officials will be able to use the data provided by NHS Test and Trace to follow up with residents that the national team has been unable to reach within a certain period of time. In some pilot areas, this has involved local authority teams and their voluntary partners visiting people at home, DHSC said.

The national and local tracers will also be feeding information into the same system ‘to ensure there is a complete view of how the service is working and how the virus might be spreading’.

PHE is continuing to monitor data on Covid-19, DHSC added, so that contact tracer staff numbers can be quickly scaled up or down depending on need. 

Local knowledge

Councillor James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association, added:‘This announcement is good news for everyone. A strong national and local partnership is critical for test and trace to work as effectively as possible and it is right that local resources are kept under constant review to ensure everyone involved is able to help stop the virus spreading further.

‘Using councils’ unrivalled local knowledge and vast experience of contact tracing within local public health teams is vital in the Government’s national efforts.’

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