Health and social care workers GMB has today called for the “immediate” resignation of Tory peer and NHS Test and Trace chair Baroness Dido Harding following a series of controversies and “blunders”.
Baroness Harding was made chair of the Test and Trace scheme in May, and was also controversially appointed as interim chair of Health Protection England in August.
The Test and Trace scheme has come under fire in recent weeks, following the revelation that the scheme had failed to report almost 16,000 COVID-19 cases – an error which has subsequently led to delays in the tracing of contacts of people who had tested positive.
Public Health England (PHE) said that a technical issue had resulted in 15,841 cases between 25 September and 2 October being left out of the reported daily coronavirus cases.
The problem was caused by an Excel spreadsheet reaching its maximum file size, which stopped new names being added in an automated process.
The files have now been split into smaller multiple files to prevent the issue happening again.
Yesterday (7 October) Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted in Parliament that the Test and Trace system is still “chasing the contacts” following the delays.
The backlog of coronavirus infections, which was left out of Public Health England’s figures, meant that as many as 48,000 people who had been close to someone who had tested positive were not contacted and advised to self-isolate.
GMB also highlighted that the latest figure for contacts reached by the scheme and told to self-isolate hit a new low of 68.8% – the lowest rate since Test and Trace started.
Experts have advised the Government that the Test and Trace system across England can only work effectively if at least 80% of “close contacts” of people with a positive test are instructed to self-isolate.
In a blog post published today, the union said: “GMB believes the Test and Trace system should be in public hands and that oversight of public health should be led by public health experts and local authorities.”
Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary said: “The Prime Minister said he couldn’t think of anyone better than Baroness Harding to run the UK’s Test and Trace programme, and that shows a clear lack of judgement. It’s scary that one of the Prime Minister’s cronies with a terrible track record has been put in temporary custody of our country’s public health.
“We’ve seen blunder after blunder under her leadership of Test and Trace and now the Baroness has further shown herself as a flunky for the Tory Party voting against efforts in the House of Lords to ensure the social care workforce are considered when the Government brings in its immigration policies.
“This is not the independent public health expert the country and its staff need leading the scheme.
“There is now ample proof to show that the UK’s Test and Trace programme needs to be taken into public hands and led by experts and local authorities, not party-political cronies.
“It’s time for Dido Harding to consider her positions”.
Photo credit: Pippa Fowles / No10 Downing Street