CIEH concerned by PAC Test and Trace findings

10 March 2021, Ross Matthewman

CIEH has expressed concern over the findings in the new report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the Government’s flagship Test and Trace programme.

Set up to support efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, NHS Test and Trace was designed to give a clear picture of the spread of the virus, allowing the Government to target specific households and areas for isolation and lockdown measures.

The programme has cost £37bn, with most of the funds being spent on labs, testing systems, and a 12,000 strong contact tracing team.

However, today’s report from the PAC has outlined serious concerns over the reliance on an expensive army of consultants, the lack of scrutiny for the awarding of private sector contracts, and repeated missed targets to process tests in 24 hours.

Julie Barratt, CIEH President, said:

“These findings are concerning, but they are perhaps not surprising.

Since last spring, CIEH has been calling for the UK Government and Public Health England to utilise existing local networks and expertise when creating their test and trace system. We also offered hundreds of Environmental Health Practitioners as volunteers to support the setting up of the system.

Unfortunately, government was wedded to pursuing an overly centralised approach from the very beginning and chose to ignore existing structures. Deciding to build this all from scratch, instead of working with local authorities, has obviously proven to be very costly.

We strongly urge the Government to focus on working with local authorities going forward, and to ensure that the significant resource put into NHS Test and Trace is also made available to support local efforts.”

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