STAFF employed by Serco for the NHS’s coronavirus test and trace programme have only spoken to an average of 2.4 people each, it has emerged.
And about 10,000 workers from outsourcing firms have only managed to contact 52.4 per cent of people living in the same household as infected patients, to make sure they know to self-isolate.
Serco and fellow outsourcer Sitel are being paid a reported £108million by the government to help run the programme in England. Staff from local NHS teams, under Public Health England, trace ‘complex’ coronavirus outbreaks, such as in schools or hospitals.
But the private companies are in charge of ‘non-complex’ cases.
Since test and trace’s launch in May, 199,524 close contacts have been reached out of 242,749 people identified — an 82 per cent rate.
NHS teams traced 98 per cent of patient contacts, but other staff working online or in call centres only had a 56 per cent hit rate. One worker said she was effectively being ‘paid to watch Netflix’. It came as the UK’s official death toll rose to 46,413, with 308,134 infections. Statistics agencies estimate 56,600 Covid-19 deaths.
Asked if he still thought the system was ‘world-beating’, prime minister Boris Johnson replied: ‘Actually I think it certainly is.’ But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘We don’t need a world-beating system; we need an effective one and we haven’t got it.’
Serco’s chief executive Rupert Soames told the BBC: ‘You’re giving me the numbers saying we’re tracing 50 per cent of contacts. Let me tell you 96 per cent of the people that we talk to agree to self-isolate. So we’ve got a very, very high success rate.’