Thank you for contacting me about contact tracking and tracing measures for coronavirus.
I fully support steps being taken to reduce the spread of coronavirus through sensible social distancing and isolation measures where appropriate. Mass testing and contact tracing are not, by themselves, solutions, but may allow some social restrictions to be relaxed faster by working to supress transition more precisely. The UK now has capacity to carry out over 300,000 tests per day which is a major increase when compared to capacity earlier this year.
The COVID-19 Test and Trace Taskforce programme will ensure that, when someone develops COVID-19-like symptoms, they can rapidly have a test to find out if they have the virus, and people who they’ve had recent close contact with can be alerted and provided with relevant advice. Part of the tracing effort includes a voluntary NHS contact tracing app; this will help increase the speed and effectiveness of the tracing effort. Around 18,000 additional contact tracers are being deployed to support the programme, around 6,000 of whom will be supporting local test and trace teams across the country.
I was delighted to learn that the NHS Test and Trace app will be available across England and Wales from 24th September. This is a significant achievement, and I congratulate all who have been involved in this process. I would encourage you to download the app, if you have a smartphone, and to scan NHS Test and Trace QR codes which will be displayed in businesses and venues across the country making it much easier for you to be notified in the event of an outbreak.
Baroness Harding has been appointed to head up the NHS Test and Trace Service following many years of service with major British companies, including Sainsbury's and TalkTalk. She has been Chair of NHS Improvement since 2017, where she has been instrumental in supporting foundation trusts and NHS trusts to give patients consistently safe, high quality and compassionate care within local health systems that are financially sustainable. In addition, she has been working to deliver the new NHS People Plan, published in July 2020, which is a plan of action to grow and support the NHS workforce. This experience of NHS infrastructure is invaluable in her role overseeing NHS Test and Trace, where she and her team have been delivering the centrally important contact tracing system.
As part of an unprecedented response to this pandemic, my colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care have drawn on the expertise and resources of a number of public and private sector partners, including Serco, to support our NHS and social care sector. I am confident that these providers will be held to the highest standards to ensure that the best service possible is delivered.
This programme is vital to the national effort to defeat coronavirus, and I will continue to monitor it closely.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Sally-Ann Hart MP