Commenting on Department of Health and Social Care’s NHS Test and Trace (England) and coronavirus testing (UK) statistics (22 October to 28 October) Adam Briggs, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation, said:
'Today’s data shows that NHS Test and Trace is still struggling to reach the number of cases and contacts needed to help slow the spread of COVID-19. While it is no small achievement that 115,660 cases and 196,067 contacts were reached in the week ending 28 October, this still means that more than 24,000 cases and 131,000 contacts – 4 out of 10 contacts identified – weren’t contacted and advised to isolate. Encouragingly, the time between taking a test and getting results is falling and the percentage of cases being contacted within 24 hours has increased to 67%. This is a significant improvement on just 44% the week before.
'The winter lockdown presents an opportunity to address the underlying difficulties that the system is facing. This includes continuing work to reduce the lag between taking a test and getting results, and in subsequently reaching cases and contacts. The widespread use of rapid test kits may help improve the time it takes to receive test results, but this is still being piloted and not yet available across the country.
'Local authority contact tracing systems are being set up across the country to manage cases that haven’t been reached within 24 hours by the national team. This local expertise and knowledge will be key to improving the number of cases and contacts reached. The government needs to ensure that these local systems have sufficient staff, as well as financial and technical resources, if they are to play a larger role when working with NHS Test and Trace.
'In addition to improving the responsiveness of the system, those being told to self isolate need to be given adequate social and financial support. No one should be left worse off from needing to self isolate, particularly those who are economically vulnerable and will already be significantly impacted by the lockdown.'
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