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Derbyshire public health director's scathing critique of NHS Test and Trace

August 7, 2020 5:26 PM
By Eddie Bisknell in Derbyshire Live

Dean Wallace says the council has had to redo much of the work.

Derbyshire's public health director has unleashed a scathing critique of the national NHS Test and Trace programme.

Dean Wallace (The Chesterfield Post)

Dean Wallace DCC Director of Public Health

Dean Wallace, speaking on behalf of Derbyshire County Council, said the Test and Trace staff lacked the local knowledge required to quash local outbreaks and to provide the data needed for councils to help do this.

He said, in an interview with Derbyshire Live, that the County Council is having to retrace the steps of the Test and Trace team to "fill in the gaps" left behind - such as ethnicity and employment information.

The national team has not realised, he says, that certain areas pose particular problems and require further questioning, such as a spike in cases in Glossop and the High Peak being linked to Greater Manchester, not to the rest of Derbyshire.

This includes identifying key employers or schools that could be the source of infections or be placed further at risk of localised outbreaks.

He said local councils should have been involved sooner in the Test and Trace programme and may even have been able to operate it themselves at a lower cost and a faster pace.

Figures published by Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Mayor, show that the national Test and Trace team contacted just 53 per cent of contacts identified in Tameside, which borders Glossopdale in Derbyshire.

Mr Wallace says there are early warning signs of a local outbreak in Glossopdale linked to travel in and out of Tameside and Greater Manchester.

"We need data on workplace and education to fill in the jigsaw. It is like running multiple investigations at once to work out who has gone where and where the infection started to try and close it off.

"It is frustrating working in local government and as a director of public health that what we can bring and do was not recognised early and now we have sort of been retrofitted in. We could have done this stuff faster and cheaper if we had been given the resources to do it.

A Department of Health and Social Care Spokesperson said: "NHS Test and Trace is working, with over 2.6 million people tested and more than 218,000 people prevented from unknowingly spreading the virus.

"Every day local authorities receive test, case and contact tracing data, with further data being shared with local directors of public health, to support their outbreak management responsibilities.

"Our priority is to curb the spread of this virus and save lives. Local action to tackle outbreaks is crucial, which is why we are working so closely with all local authorities to provide additional support where needed."