York council leader on the benefits of local NHS test and trace

YORK’S council leader has hit out at the Government over plans to switch to a “flawed” test and trace system.

Cllr Keith Aspden made the comments after a decision to re-centralise contact tracing, despite objections from the local Public Health teams across the country.

York’s Public Health team launched a local contact tracing service – known as Local 0 – in March. The team undertook the contact tracing of all contacts of positive cases.

The team reached 90 per cent of contacts reached within 24 hours since the launch of the scheme, playing a big role in containing outbreaks and reducing the spread of infection in York.

But Government-enforced changes to the NHS Test & Trace system means local teams can no longer trace contacts in York while positive cases are not referred to the local team until after four hours.

City of York Council said the change is causing delays in the follow up of positive cases and presents a risk locally of residents not being able to access the right level of support soon enough.

This is a particular concern for those who will be unable to self-isolate without practical support, which can only be provided locally, the council said.

Cllr Aspden has since sent a letter to the Health Secretary as the Chair of the city’s Outbreak Management Board outlining the risks of this decision and urging for it to be reversed.

Cllr Aspden (Liberal Democrat, Fulford and Heslington) said: “It is the hard work and success of our Public Health team that clearly show why a localised approach to contact tracing is the right one.

“It is a big mistake to switch back to a flawed centralised approach which has proved both costly and ineffective.

“No reasoning has been given for this decision, which is very likely to affect our local efforts, risking the hard work done by all residents, businesses and public health professionals.

“We know that the pandemic is not yet over and case numbers in the city continue to be higher than we would like. As we continue to work together to support local businesses and keep our city safe, a successful, cost effective and responsive contact tracing system will be integral to the success of our reopening efforts.”

The Press contacted the Government for a response but received no reply by the time of publication.

The outsourced national contact tracing service has been heavily criticised throughout the pandemic.

The council, including public health teams and key partners, believe local trace teams not only present better value for money, but address the needs of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged residents.

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