Third of health trusts not confident over Government plans for test and trace – NHS Providers

A third of health trusts said they were not confident the current plans for testing would meet the needs of trusts and communities in the coming months, with one chief executive branding the Government’s approach “shambolic”, according to a new report.

NHS Providers, which represents trusts, said there was a concern among those surveyed that there was too much of a focus on meeting targets and that there had been a lack of clarity in messaging around who was responsible for what.

The report, based on a survey of trust leaders across England carried out over a three-week period from the end of June, found 37% of trusts disagreeing with a statement that the Government’s current plans for testing are adequate for the next one to three months.

Around one third (32%) agreed with the statement.

There were also concerns around delays in the time it took to get test results back, mainly when using off-site non-NHS laboratories, with the percentage of trusts reporting a turnaround time of 24 hours falling from 78% on site to 16% when using other trusts and 10% when using Lighthouse Labs.

A little over half (56%) of trust leaders agreed they have the necessary capacity to test patients who will need it when paused services resume.

Almost three quarters (70%) of trusts also feel they should have a role in coordinating testing for health and care within their local area, the report said.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said the Government’s strategy “needs to be based on more local involvement, with an appropriate role for trusts alongside local government partners”.

On Thursday a public health official suggested making Test and Trace more localised to help reach more people, describing the centralised system as “ludicrous”.

Ivan Browne, director of public health for Leicester, the site of the first local lockdown, said one of the measures initiated in the area was that individuals who could not be contacted through Test and Trace within the first 48 hours were passed across to the local authority.

Mr Hopson said Friday’s report highlights that despite progress made, concerns remain about the challenges trusts still face.

He said: “Trust leaders have achieved a great deal in supporting and delivering their part of the Government’s national testing strategy.

“They’ve massively expanded the testing capacity they control, delivered many more tests for patients and staff and ensured that they have tested all the patients and staff they were required to.

“They’re now ready to go again, for this next phase.

“But they’ve struggled with the limitations of the Government’s approach to testing, the early lack of a clear strategy, the obsession with hitting an artificial 100,000 test capacity target at the end of April and the time taken to realise the importance of local control and co-ordination.

“The creation of NHS Test and Trace has generated more confidence but these findings highlight real concerns about the challenges trusts continue to face.”

More than half of trusts responded to the survey, covering all regions of England and including leaders from hospital, mental health, community and ambulance services.

One unnamed chief executive of a mental health and learning disability trust quoted in the report said of the Government’s approach: “It has been shambolic.

“The whole pandemic has been run from a government perspective around the 5pm briefing.

“Delays in staff testing at the beginning… then logistical issues with labs, equipment, reagent etc. which caused lengthy delays in results.”

Mr Hopson added: “This has been the toughest year in the history of the NHS, but the worst may be yet to come if we can’t all pull together to build the national test and tracing regime we need for winter.”

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