Local Contact Tracing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:35 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Kim Johnson Kim Johnson Labour, Liverpool, Riverside 6:35 pm, 14th October 2020

No, thank you. I cannot give way.

Let us be clear: it is not the NHS test and trace system that is failing us because the NHS has not been given the contract. It is a privatised system, wasting billions of pounds, that is failing us and the people of this country. We can no longer depend on a national system that 74% of the population believe is not working. Contracts are handed out without competitive tendering, which is what happened with the company that was set up on 12 May 2020 by an associate of a Conservative peer. It had no track record and received a £122 million contract. There are all those favoured Government companies with a track record of failure, such as Serco, which was fined £23 million by the Serious Fraud Office last year for overclaiming on its tagging contract, or its subcontractor Concentrix, which was previously involved in scandals around tax credits. Millions of pounds have been gifted to privatised companies, whether or not they are successful. Serco’s track and trace programme is reaching only 68% of close contacts. My local health protection teams have managed to communicate with 97% of contacts. People’s lives are dependent on an effective and swift test, track and trace programme.

Half of the wards in my constituency are in the top 20% of deprived neighbourhoods. Poverty is strongly linked with the incidence of covid-19. We have a large black community who are more susceptible to the virus and prone to a disproportionate number of deaths. As of this afternoon, Liverpool has no intensive care unit beds in the city, and the virus is impacting other critical care wards. It is time that this Government stop playing ideological games with people’s lives and handed responsibility back to local authorities, regional public health directors and our NHS to run this critical programme, save lives and protect our NHS.