How well is the coronavirus Test and Trace system working in Northamptonshire?

More cases and more contacts reached than national average....but still short of 80 per cent success rate

By Kevin Nicholls
Friday, 25th September 2020, 5:01 pm
Updated Friday, 25th September 2020, 5:02 pm

Northamptonshire's test and trace programme was among the busiest in the country, attempting to reach nearly 2,500 people who came into close contact with coronavirus victims.

Latest data from the Department for Health and Social Care shows 2,313 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in the county were transferred to the Test and Trace service between May 28 and September 9 – leading to 1,783 close contacts being identified.

Northamptonshire's figures are swollen by the mass private testing at the Greencore sandwich-making factory which produced more than 300 positive tests during August.

Only six other areas in England — including Leicester and big cities Birmingham and Manchester — are ahead of Northamptonshire in terms of number of cases dealt with.

But the figures also reveal that 530, 23 per cent of Northamptonshire total, could not be reached by contact tracers.

NHS Test and Trace was launched 28 May and ensures that anyone who develops coronavirus symptoms can quickly be tested to find out if they have the virus.

It then helps trace recent close contacts of anyone who tests positive and, if necessary, notifies them they must self-isolate at home to help stop the spread of the virus.

NHS Test and Trace will be bolstered by Thursday's launch of the new app. Photos: Getty Images

The DHSC says a close contact is deemed to be ‘not reached’ when there is no response to text, email or call reminders, or when their communication details were not available.

Across England 64 per cent of close contacts were reached and told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace in the week to September 9 and the Government has faced mounting pressure over failings in the system.

Saffron Cordery, chief executive of NHS Providers, said this falls "well short" of the 80 per cent target.

She said: “Trust leaders are increasingly concerned with the current testing shortages impacting on NHS service recovery and winter preparations due to staff and their family members being unable to access a test.

Latest figures show the areas dealing with most Test and Trace cases. Source: Dept of Health & Social Care

“Additionally, with the number of positive Covid-19 cases increasing, but a reduction in the proportion being contact traced, we are looking at renewed pressure on the NHS."

A new NHS Covid-19 contact-tracing app launched yesterday (Thursday) after months of setbacks, including a U-turn on the original operating model.

Baroness Dido Harding, who heads up the NHS Test and Trace service, admitted last week that demand for tests was outstripping capacity but denied claims that the system was "failing".

She suggested around a quarter of those coming forward for a test did not have symptoms.

Under new rules, from September 28, people will legally have to self-isolate for 14 days if they test positive for coronavirus, or are instructed to do by NHS Test and Trace.

Those failing to do so face fines starting at £1,000 from Monday (September 28) but these could rise to £10,000 for serious breaches — including for those preventing others self-isolating.

This could include business owners who threaten self-isolating staff with redundancy if they do not come to work.