The National Audit Office (NAO) has published criticism of the Government’s approach to testing and tracing Covid-19.
Its interim report made repeated reference to other countries’ use of GPs and existing primary care facilities to provide principal access points for testing.
‘It is not yet achieving all its objectives, with too few test results delivered within 24 hours, and too few contacts of infected people being reached and told to self-isolate,’ authors warned.
NHST&T’s budget for 2020-21 currently stands at £22 billion. Some 70% of early contracts by value were directly awarded without competition under emergency measures.
‘Government needs to learn lessons from its experience so far,’ they added.
Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: ‘Test and Trace is core to the UK’s pandemic response. It must improve its performance with a focus on effective engagement with the public and integration with local efforts to improve tracing.’
Public health experts were swift to support the NAO’s report.
Dr Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the Health Foundation, said: ‘The NAO has today voiced reservations about whether the large amount of Government money being invested in NHS Test and Trace system is being spent well. This is particularly concerning at a time when other parts of the health and care system – including public health and social care – are chronically underfunded.’
Dr Billy Palmer, a senior fellow at the Nuffield Trust, said: ‘As the report points out, we need to ask questions about NHS T&T’s unusual organisational relationships and unclear accountability. The centralised nature of the programme and the limited support and incentives for people to isolate may also be significant problems.’
The NAO will assess the value for money of Test and Trace in spring 2021.