Martin Ford 11 December 2020

Boost to local test and trace funding

The Government has promised to increase council test and trace funding by up to £200m per month following criticism from the National Audit Office (NAO).

It has pledged to ‘enhance the role of local teams and directors of public health’ and support every upper-tier local authority to build its own capacity and ‘focus particularly on vulnerable or harder-to-engage groups’.

The announcement comes as the NAO publishes an interim report that found councils felt they were being 'held back from developing their own arrangements by lack of funding’.

Head of the NAO, Gareth Davies, said: ‘It [test and trace] must improve its performance with a focus on effective engagement with the public and integration with local efforts to improve tracing.’

The NAO report urged the Government to ‘understand what local authority capacity and funding are required’ and work closely with councils on self-isolating.

Chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, said: ‘As we battle to get through this winter and reduce transmission of the virus, it is essential that the Government enables these successful local schemes to be built on to address the current limitations of the national test and trace system.’

Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier, added: ‘The Government tried to reinvent the wheel when it centralised testing and tracing, tearing up the usual accountability arrangements and leaving local public health teams out in the cold.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson responded that the service was now reaching 85.7% of contacts nationally.

They added: ‘We know there is more to do, and yesterday we published the NHS business plan, setting out the next phase of improvement for the service, and how we will increase the speed and reach of testing and tracing even further.’

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