Local Contact Tracing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:36 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 4:36 pm, 14th October 2020

I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “when” to end and insert

“working in conjunction with NHS Test and Trace;
welcomes the huge expansion of testing to a capacity of over 340,000 tests a day;
applauds the efforts of all involved in testing and contact tracing both at a national and local level;
recognises that 650,000 people have now been asked to isolate thanks to the work of NHS Test and Trace, and supports the Government’s efforts to expand testing and tracing yet further.”.

I agree with the final sentence of Rachel Reeves that this is about protecting people. The entire focus of the Government from day one has been on driving a system that can protect people. It is not a zero-sum game, and it is not an either/or.

This pandemic is the most unprecedented public health emergency we have faced in a generation. We knew that our response would require a phenomenal national effort and that we would need to work closely with others. Local authorities and directors of public health have played an enormous part thus far, including in the delivery of test and trace. They have worked exceptionally hard to prepare and support their communities throughout the coronavirus outbreak, protecting the most vulnerable and saving lives.

I take this opportunity to say thank you to all the public health teams and local authority staff for their hard work thus far, and I know I speak for everyone in this place, irrespective of where we sit, and beyond when I say how grateful we are that they have been there.

Local partnerships have been at the heart of both covid and of the NHS Test and Trace response. As this House knows, Test and Trace was stood up at incredible speed and has developed at scale and pace. As would be expected, the Government responded at pace.

The hon. Lady mentioned Serco on more than one occasion but, as she well knows, having reacted to the changing situation at pace, Serco and Sitel went through a full tendering process to became one of the suppliers to the Government, and they can be drawn down at short notice. They gained their place through fair and open competition via an OJEU procurement process. Value for money and capability are part of those assessment criteria.

On 8 May, the Prime Minister announced that we were bringing Test and Trace into a single service, listening to those people who were asking us to respond, and it was formally launched on 28 May. We have brought together a huge range of people and organisations into the system, from the Department of Health and Social Care, the NHS, Public Health England, local authorities, academia, epidemiologists, the private and even the not-for-profit sector. I think my hon. Friend Ben Everitt will be speaking. Milton Keynes is just the most glowing example of using people’s skills.