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Local authorities to benefit from dedicated contact tracing

Local authorities are set to benefit from more localised contact tracing as NHS Test and Trace and Public Health England extended their partnership with local public health efforts, with the aim of reach more people testing positive for coronavirus and their contacts.

As part of the partnerships, NHS Test and Trace will provide local authorities with a dedicated team of contact tracers for local areas, while local and national teams will work interconnectedly to ensure as many people as possible are reached by contact tracing efforts.

The new ring-fenced teams will represent a new way of working for the UK contract tracing efforts and will focus their work on specific areas, alongside the relevant local public health officials in order to provide a more tailored service.

If the dedicated national team cannot make contact with a resident within a set period of time, the local public health officials can use the data provided by NHS Test and Trace to follow up. Already, the approach has shown success in Blackburn with Darwen, Luton and Leicester and is now being offered to all local authorities.

This integrated national and local system combines specialist local knowledge with the additional resources and data required from NHS Test and Trace.

All data gathered will be fed into the same system utilised by both the national and local teams, ensuring a complete overview of how the service is working and the spread of the virus.

Executive Chair of NHS Test and Trace, Dido Harding, said: “NHS Test and Trace is one of the largest contact tracing and testing systems anywhere in the world, and was built rapidly, drawing on the UK’s existing health protection networks, to stop the spread of coronavirus. At the height of the pandemic we ensured the system had extra capacity in place to cope with potential peaks in the virus.

“We have always been clear that NHS Test and Trace must be local by default and that we do not operate alone – we work with and through partners across the country. As we learn more about the spread of the disease, we are able to move to our planned next step and become even more effective in tackling the virus.

“After successful trials in a small number of local areas, I am very pleased to announce that we are now offering this integrated localised approach to all local authorities to ensure we can reach more people in their communities and stop the spread of Covid-19.

Councillor James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, added: “This announcement is good news for everyone.  A strong national and local partnership is critical for test and trace to work as effectively as possible and it is right that local resources are kept under constant review to ensure everyone involved is able to help stop the virus spreading further.

“Using councils’ unrivalled local knowledge and vast experience of contact tracing within local public health teams is vital in the government’s national efforts.”

PSE Aug/Sept 20

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