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

As the hon. Gentleman can imagine, in the current circumstances the Department has a vast amount of correspondence. I will chase his inquiry personally when I return.

As I said at the start, it is not a case of either/or, as the Opposition motion makes out. The pandemic requires us all to work towards that common goal of beating the virus. Contact tracing is an excellent example of partnership in action. We have Public Health England’s epidemiology expertise to ensure that the operationalisation of the tracing model is built on a strong scientific base. Through NHS Test and Trace and its partner organisations, we can do it at scale. The national framework enables us to reach tens of thousands of people a day. It would not have been possible to do that on the existing infrastructure without placing an unbearable burden and strain on the system. To support this, we have local health teams who know their local areas and can provide expert management locally. Probably one of the finest examples of that was the response in Leicester, where local teams responded phenomenally to the challenge presented to them earlier in the summer, with the national oversight identifying that there was a problem and then the local response. We know we need people on the ground locally who can reach the most vulnerable and those who are disengaged from local services.

The local health protection teams form the first tier of the NHS Test and Trace contact tracing service, consisting of public health specialists. NHS Test and Trace and Public Health England work with local government colleagues, including the Association of Directors of Public Health, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers, the Local Government Association and UK chief environmental health officers, on part of this programme. It is, therefore, simply untrue that contact tracing does not include those experts front and centre, helping us deliver.