Callers in ‘fundamentally wrong’ test and trace system reaching just one contact a month

The criticism chimes with comments from staff employed by NHS Test and Trace which have emerged since its launch at the end of May.

One, a trained clinician, said the job was akin to being “paid to watch Netflix”. Others spoke of being members of a WhatsApp group called the Mouse Movers Club, which they use to remind each other to move their computer mouse every 15 minutes to avoid being locked out of the system.

On Monday, a staff member told the Telegraph he was not adequately prepared for the job, saying: “I was working at tier three and you are not given any training to challenge what the person tells you.

“You are not collecting any information, you just tell them that they have been in contact with somebody who has tested positive and therefore you have to self-isolate. You don’t even know who they have been in contact with or where they had contact with that person. You literally get their name and phone number, and maybe a date of birth.”

Another tracer revealed: “I’m week 15 now, still not a single call, and loads of overtime available pretty much every week now. I’m working 53 hours this week.”

One said the Government is “delusional” if it thinks track and trace is working, adding: “Ninety five per cent of the records, I get don’t answer.”

On August 23, the Government will decide whether to extend the current contracts with the outsourcing firms Serco and Sitel, worth £108 million and up to a maximum of £410 million.

Independent Sage on Monday argued that the contracts should be cancelled and control handed over to local public health teams.

Professor Keith Neal, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Nottingham and not a member of Independent SAGE, said: “The biggest issue has been that 20 to 25 per cent of cases have not been contactable. Allowing local authorities to chase up will ensure more are contacted.  

“Visiting houses will help, but there is no mention as to what they will do if they are not isolating for 10 days as they should be.

“The advantage of a national system is that it can divert resources to hotspots. In some places they are very few cases, others have many more so there is likely to be a capacity issue in some areas.”

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