Doctors for the NHS (DFNHS) has called on contact tracing for Covid-19 to be put back into the public domain, after early reports  of ‘shambolic and inadequate’ recruitment and training of contact-tracing staff by private Call-Centre firm, Sitel.
DFNHS Chair, Ophthalmic Consultant Surgeon Mr Colin Hutchinson, said:
‘We all dread using them, but we are given little choice – call centres. The frustration of speaking to someone who is obviously reading from a script and unable to deviate from it, even when the questions are obviously irrelevant to your situation. The relief if you find you are speaking to somebody who knows what they are doing and can fix the problem that has been bugging you.
‘Using the same model to inform you that you have a potentially life-threatening disease and that you need to shut yourself away for a week or more, with all the resulting personal, financial and social problems for you and anyone that depends on you was never going to be straightforward. So why was it decided to bypass the people who are experienced and trained to do this kind of work and who understand the communities that they serve, in favour of a small army of remote, unskilled, poorly supported call handlers?
‘Why not rebuild the Public Health and Environmental Health teams that have been slashed over the last 10 years, but which can still form a firm foundation for combatting the local outbreaks of Covid infections that will need to be tackled for a long time to come. The fight against Covid-19 will take place in the care homes; the shops; the prisons; the sports, entertainment and social centres; the factories; schools and universities in our towns and cities. It is essential that an accurate local picture of cases of infection and the routes by which it spreads, can be built up in real time, to close down infection hot-spots and link into the community support services that need to be mobilised if we are to stand any chance of containing this disease.
‘Invest in local public services. Invest in the experts.’