Time is running out to finalise a test, track and trace strategy to avoid a potential second surge of COVID-19 cases, the NHS Confederation has warned.
In a letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the membership body has set out the concerns of health leaders of a greater risk of a second wave of infections, putting the lives of more people at risk, unless a clear strategy is in place before lockdown measures are further lifted. This strategy needs to involve local public health directors who are expert in this work, it says.
While it is welcome that the Government has announced 25,000 contact tracers have been recruited to track 10,000 new cases of coronavirus a day from 1 June, health leaders are yet to see detail on the strategy that underpins this, including how local authorities can support efforts to ensure that testing is prioritised according to local needs.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“We are 10 weeks into the pandemic and still we await a clear and supported test, track and trace strategy. We know there is frenetic work underway to deliver this but we should not be in any doubt how crucial getting this right will be.
“The relaxation of restrictions based on scientific advice is the right approach but it must be accompanied by an effective test, track and trace strategy which enables us to monitor local spread of the disease. To achieve this we must have national, local and cross-agency involvement. Without this, we do face the risk of a second wave of infections.
“This is about saving lives and protecting the NHS: if we do not set up the right system, involving local agencies, we will put patients and NHS staff at risk.
“We are calling on the Government to produce its strategy with support from local government and public health professionals within a clear and agreed implementation plan before any further easing of the lockdown.”