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Tue, 27 October 2020

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Exclusive: Just A Fifth Of The Public Think NHS Test and Trace Is Effective, Polling Shows

Exclusive: Just A Fifth Of The Public Think NHS Test and Trace Is Effective, Polling Shows
3 min read

The NHS Test and Trace system has suffered another blow as fresh polling shows just 20 percent of the public think it is effective.

The low confidence in the scheme is revealed just days after it emerged almost 16,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus were not added to a central database due to a software error.

The error meant that in some cases there were delays of up to five days in the tracing of contacts of people with positive results.

The poll of 3,000 people was undertaken by Redfield & Wilton Strategies on behalf of PoliticsHome on October 6 and 7.

It showed that 62 per cent of the public do not believe the test and trace system is effective, just 20 per cent think it is and 18 per cent don’t know.

Shadow health minister Justin Madders said: “The clear lack of public confidence in test and trace hardly comes as a surprise, given the litany of problems with accessing tests, slow turnaround times for results and the woeful performance of Serco on contact tracing.

"We are in danger of public trust collapsing in the Government’s ability to deal competently with the pandemic.

"Ministers must urgently sort out the problems before it is too late."

The testing system was thrown into chaos in September when schools returned and demand shot up, with delays of up to five days in getting test results back and some people being advised to take round trips of hundreds of miles to get swabbed. 

Outsourcing firm Serco was also forced to apologise after accidentally sharing the email addresses of almost 300 contact tracers it was training earlier in May.

The vast majority of people polled did, however, back the principle of the system, with 81 per cent saying that they would prefer to find out if a someone who had been near them had tested positive for coronavirus, even though they would have to self-isolate at home for two weeks.

Almost a fifth - 19 per cent - said they would prefer not to find out, even though there would be a chance they have contracted coronavirus.

The Test and Trace app had been downloaded by 45 percent of those polled.

In other findings:

- 57 per cent said that if they wanted to get tested for coronavirus, they would know where to find a test. 

- 57 per cent believe the rules are clear on how to get tested and what to if you get a positive test result. 

- 43 per cent say the rules are unclear.

Labour has been arguing for weeks that the system - headed by Conservative peer and former TalkTalk chief executive Dido Harding - is not effective, often raising the subject at Prime Minister's Questions. 

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said that part of their challenge was that demand has gone up but that capacity is at record levels, and far higher than at the start of the pandemic.  

A DHSC spokesperson said: “NHS Test and Trace is processing tests at an unprecedented rate - 250,000 a day on average over the last week – with the vast majority of the public reporting no issues at all. Nearly 700,000 people who may otherwise have unknowingly spread coronavirus have been contacted and told to isolate.

“We have committed significant funding to ensure everyone who needs a test can get one, and continue to ramp up our testing capacity to meet our target of 500,000 tests a day by the end of the month.

“The message is clear – follow the rule of six, think ‘hands, face, space’ and get tested if you have symptoms.” 

The government said it has been able to contact over 85 percent of all contacts, where communication details were given, and those people were told to self-isolate.

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