Private test and trace is failing - hand it back to the NHS

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‘NHS test and trace’ is not run by the NHS. The testing side is run by private companies such as Deloitte, and it’s clear that it is failing. As a GP, I see the failure of this system everyday - and the Prime Minister has just come out and admitted that under the current set up we do not have enough testing capacity. That’s why I’m calling for testing to be taken out of private company hands in order to get this back on track urgently.

A partnership between local authorities and public health, primary care and NHS labs is needed to ensure a successful testing system. Not having access to testing has huge adverse effects on society as people with symptoms and their contacts self isolate and stay at home, or simply infect others in the absence of any certainty they are infected.

In the health sector much needed colleagues have had to self-isolate when they could be at work because they can’t get a test, while worried parents are keeping children home with simple colds as they can’t know for sure what is wrong, meaning they miss out on even more education. I know first-hand how deadly this virus is, having lost a close family member during the first wave. We must get a handle on testing to avoid further tragedy.

Long term investment in testing facilities is absolutely crucial if society is going to be able to continue to function. Testing must be local and easily accessible, and results obtained quickly and shared with those who need to know.

Part of the problem is that NHS laboratories with testing facilities were bypassed and huge amounts of money given to private companies such as Deloitte to develop distant super-laboratories. A key lesson is that the entire system must be well coordinated, have quality assurance built in for each element, and be backed by the right information technology. We must utilise the experience, community connections, and knowledge of local primary care, public health, and laboratory services.

Please sign my petition calling for testing to be rooted within NHS structures and given the necessary investment. #TakeBackTesting

Dr Louise Irvine, London GP and member of Keep Our NHS Public