Test and Trace an 'eyewatering' waste of taxpayer cash
The £37billion NHS Test and Trace service has been an 'eye-wateringly expensive' failure, a damning report by MPs reveals.
It has failed to break chains of Covid transmission, prevent lockdowns or enable people to return to a more normal way of life.
Spending on Test and Trace is equal to nearly a fifth of the 2020/21 NHS England budget.
Just 45 per cent of testing capacity was used between November 2020 and April 2021, and at times as few as 11 per cent of contact centre staff were being utilised.
Only 96million of 691million lateral flow tests it distributed were registered. And it 'is not clear what benefit the remaining 595million tests have secured'.
The programme was championed by the then Health Secretary Matt Hancock, whilst Prime Minister Boris Johnson described it as 'world-beating'.
Despite committing to reduce consultants – paid an average of £1,100 a day – the service employed more in April 2021 (2,239) than in December 2020 (2,164).
The report also details how less than half of contact tracers who had been hired were ever in use at any one time.
It said: '[NHS Test and Trace] has a 50 per cent target utilisation rate for its contact centre staff, but the highest reached was 49 per cent at the beginning of January 2021 and this had fallen to 11 per cent by the end of February 2021.
'Over Christmas 2020, when there appeared to be spare laboratory capacity and Covid-19 cases were rising, performance declined and it took longer to provide test results, with only 17 per cent of people receiving test results within 24 hours in December 2020.'
The committee also criticised handling of the cash, highlighting that the programme has still not managed to reduce the number of expensive contractors - who are paid an average of £1,100 per day - and has not developed a 'flexible' approach to using laboratories, which 'risks wasting public money'.
Test and Trace's 'continued over-reliance on consultants is likely to cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds', the report states.