Lambeth Council has become the first London borough to bring all Covid-19 contact tracing inhouse in a new pilot scheme that has been launched.
The council has recruited and trained new teams of tracers to work with residents to quickly and effectively track contacts who may have been exposed to the virus.
The new ‘Local 0’ scheme will see residents who have tested positive for Covid-19 being contacted by a local contact tracer instead of NHS Test and Trace.
It is hoped that this move will drastically reduce the amount of time required to track cases and provide a more efficient response to further outbreaks if they arise.
Under the NHS Test and Trace system, it can take between two to three days for positive cases to be passed from Public Health England to local teams.
However, the Local 0 scheme means those returning a positive test will now be called immediately by Lambeth’s own contact tracers and It is anticipated that Lambeth Council will directly deal with up to five times the number of Covid-19 cases as a result of taking control of test and trace.
Lambeth’s involvement in the Local 0 pilot follows the council carrying out two separate enhanced testing programmes after single cases of the Covid-19 variant first detected in South Africa were found in the borough.
The approach included access to mobile testing units, as well as Covid-19 test kits being delivered door to door in the affected areas.
Lambeth Council passed a motion in January urging the government to devolve contact tracing to councils to fill gaps in the national system and also called for better integration of Test and Trace with support services and encourage better engagement with local GPs and volunteers.
Commenting, Lambeth Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, Councillor Jim Dickson said: “As a council, we are pleased to be the first London council to be part of this pilot scheme. Our recent work around Operation Eagle in the south and north of the borough has shown how effective this local approach can be.
“We hope to build on this strong performance and our existing links with Public Health England, the NHS and partner agencies to identify and suppress any future outbreaks as they occur.”
“We believe that early identification of person-to-person transmission is vital to reducing the number of Covid-19. Therefore, devolving these powers to local councils is something we fully support. Lambeth Council and its partners have worked tirelessly to build up its specialist contact tracing teams to ensure we have the capacity to deal with a higher volume of cases.
“We have built a fantastic team of tracers and have refined our approach throughout the pandemic. We know our area and our residents best, which means we can react faster and effectively so we can save lives.
“We look forward to working with our counterparts in government to ensure we receive the correct resources to provide support for residents and make our communities safer.”