Track and trace

We must recognise the success of local track and trace teams. These teams reach the overwhelming majority of close contacts, and in Stockport borough we have seen success rates as high as 99%. Local teams can often reach more contacts because they have a local presence and local knowledge, and they play a vital role in tackling the virus.

In October, I called on the Government to consider devolving more responsibility for testing to local authorities such as Stockport, reflecting the success they have seen. The Department for Health and Social Care has outlined that detailed data is being made available to specialist teams through local dashboards, and this has been expanded to provide more data for local areas.

However, I also recognise that local systems should be complemented by a nationwide track and trace system, which can move fast at scale. NHS Test and Trace has now reached more than two million people, while the NHS COVID-19 app has been downloaded more than 19.5 million times, but it is crucial that we continue working to improve the system.

It is especially important that a higher percentage of close contacts of those with a positive test are contacted, and as quickly as possible, to enable them to self-isolate and to restrict the spread. Last week in Parliament I asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social care to bring forward a testing program at scale in Stockport using lateral Flow (rapid testing). I am pleased that this will now be rolled out. Alongside this program it is important that NHS Test and Trace works effectively, to ensure that the number of new cases remains under control. I will continue to monitor progress in this area closely.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that testing, and NHS Test and Trace services, are being provided through the NHS. While it is true that providers like Serco and Sitel are working with the public sector to help the NHS deliver these services, these providers must be held to the highest standards to ensure that the best possible service is delivered.