The £37billion NHS Test and Trace service has been an ‘eye-wateringly expensive’ failure, a damning report by MPs claims.

It has not been able to break the chains of Covid transmission or prevent lockdowns, nor have it allowed people to return to a normal way of living.

The Public Accounts Committee stated that the organisation, which was previously headed by Baroness Harding, former TalkTalk boss, also had’muddled objectives.

Nearly a fifth of 2020/21 NHS England budget is spent on Test and Trace.

Between November 2020 – April 2021, only 45 per cent of the testing capacity was utilized. At times, as little as 11 percent of contact center staff were being used.

Only 96million of the 691million lateral flows it distributed were recorded. It’s not clear what benefits the remaining 595million tests have provided.

The former Health Secretary Matt Hancock championed the programme, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it ‘world-beating. 

The £37billion NHS Test and Trace service has been an ¿eye-wateringly expensive¿ failure, a damning report by MPs claims

The £37billion NHS Test and Trace service has been an ‘eye-wateringly expensive’ failure, a damning report by MPs claims

It has failed to break chains of Covid transmission, prevent lockdowns or enable people to return to a more normal way of life. The organisation, previously led by former TalkTalk boss Baroness Harding (pictured), also had ¿muddled¿ objectives, the Public Accounts Committee said

It has not broken the chains of Covid transmission, prevented lockdowns or allowed people to return home to a more normal lifestyle. The Public Accounts Committee also stated that the organisation, previously led former TalkTalk boss Baroness Harding (pictured), had’muddled’ objectives.

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).

Dame Meg Hillier, chairman of the Committee, stated that despite its bold ambitions, it has not been able to achieve them despite spending huge sums.

The main conclusions of this damning report 

– NHS Test and Trace “has not achieved its main goal to help break chains and Covid-19 transmission and allow people to return to an ordinary way of living”

– The ‘continued over-reliance upon consultants is likely to result in taxpayers paying hundreds of millions of pounds’.

– Test and Trace services are ‘variable’ and only a small percentage of people with Covid-19 symptoms receive a test. Some groups are less likely to be tested than others.

– The programme’s laboratory approach and contact center usage are’still not flexible sufficient to meet changing demand and risk wasting public funds’.

Meanwhile, the professor who helped create the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab has said it is unfair to ‘bash the UK’ over high numbers of Covid cases – around 40,000 a day in recent weeks.

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard stated: “If you look across Western Europe, you will see that we have approximately ten times the number of tests performed each day than other countries.”

The damning report has been published just ahead of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget, where he will lay out the details of the recently-announced £6billion funding boost for the NHS.

It explains how the Test and Trace system failed set targets and how consultants were out of control. 

Hancock had promised that the system would enable the Government to avoid using national lockdowns, and instead get the contacts for people who had contracted Covid-19.

The report also shows that less than half the contact tracers who were hired were ever in use at one time.

It stated:[NHS Test and Trace]The target utilisation rate of its contact centre staff is 50%. However, the highest was 49% at the beginning of January 2021. This had fallen to 11% by the end February 2021.

“Over Christmas 2020 when there appeared to have been spare laboratory capacity and Covid-19 instances were rising, performance fell and it took more time to provide test results. Only 17% received test results within 24hrs in December 2020.

The programme was championed by the then Health Secretary Matt Hancock, whilst Prime Minister Boris Johnson described it as 'world-beating'

The program was championed at the time by Matt Hancock, Health Secretary. Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, described it as ‘world-beating.

Of the near-700million lateral flow tests which were distributed by NHS Test and Trace, only 14 per cent were registered online – something which is essential for the spread of coronavirus to be tracked.

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’.

The report states that Test and Trace’s “continued dependence on consultants is likely be costly taxpayers hundreds of million of pounds”.

It was primarily concerned with getting programs up and running, and less on ensuring that these programmes delivered the promised benefits, it says.

Dame Meg Hillier said NHS Test and Trace failed to live up to its 'bold' ambitions

Dame Meg Hillier claimed that NHS Test and Trace didn’t live up to their ‘bold’ ambitions

The programme’s services are ‘variable’ in that some people are less likely to take a test.

The cross-party committee of MPs stated that the programme must be moved into the UK Health Security Agency.

Dame Hillier stated that taxpayers will continue to pay hundreds of millions of pounds for the services of consultants who are too expensive to deliver this state of affairs.

“For this large amount of money we must see a legacy system ready and able to deliver when required, but it’s just too unclear what will be available in the long term. If we are to get any value from the money we spend, this legacy should be a priority for government.

MPs have made a number of suggestions and suggestions for improvements to the programme.

Baroness Harding spearheaded the development of the Test and Trace programme, which was quickly implemented at the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic. The programme aimed to test the nation and trace contacts of positive cases.

Dr Jenny Harries is the chief executive of UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). She stated in a statement that ‘NHS Test and Trace’ (NHSTT), has played an important role in fighting this pandemic.

“The Public Accounts Committee acknowledges that there have been improvements in testing capacities, turnaround times, speed and reach of contact tracer – and improved collaboration between local authorities.

“The NHSTT is saving lives every day and helping us fight Covid-19. They break transmission chains and spot outbreaks wherever they are.

“More than 323,000,000 tests have been conducted across the UK. The NHSTT has reached more than 19.9 millions people, slowing the spread of the virus.

A government spokesman said: ‘NHS Test & Trace has delivered on what it set out to do – break chains of transmission and save lives.

“To date, more than 323 million virus tests have been performed and nearly 20 million people have been contacted, who could have accidentally transmitted the virus.

“We have benefited from the expertise of many public and private sector partners, who have been invaluable in helping to fight the virus.

“We have built a testing network that can process millions upon millions of tests per day – more than any European nation – and provide a free LFD/PCR test to anyone who requires one.

“The UK Health Security Agency will consolidate all the knowledge we have about our health system in order to combat future pandemics.”