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NHS Confederation: We must use lockdown to fix test and trace

It’s been the continual talking point throughout the latter half of the coronavirus pandemic so far: the beleaguered NHS Test and Trace system.

Now, as we enter a four-week national lockdown in England, calls have once again been echoed to come good on the Prime Minister’s promise and use the lockdown period to fix many of the issues with the system.

Responding to the latest figures on Covid-19 mortality rates, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), NHS Confederation Director Dr Layla McCay said the figures demonstrated clearly the immediate need to get the virus under control, which would only be possible with a more effective test and trace system in place.

Dr McCay said: “These figures demonstrate all too clearly the need to take immediate action to curb the spread of the virus and avoid even more loss of life. We hope the impending national lockdown in England will have the intended effect, but this is a blunt instrument for a complex problem.

“As well as dramatically reducing contacts between people to slow the spread of the virus, this month must also be used to make rapid and significant improvements to the test and trace system, including rapid turnaround of results and increasing the percentage of close contacts reached and asked to isolate to help enable the restrictions to be safely lifted.

“The news that city-wide testing is being piloted in Liverpool has provided a glimmer of hope for a way forward, especially as the city has suffered some of the highest numbers of deaths in England, and we hope it will help to limit the spread, with a view to being rolled out nationally.

“However, its success or failure will lie in supporting those who do test positive and their contacts, regardless of symptoms, to self-isolate for the necessary period to prevent spread of the virus.

“Of course, the NHS is not a Covid-only service and people should seek treatment when they need it. But we should also remember that NHS staff are doing all they can to keep up with the demand for Covid-19 related services at the same time as maintaining and restoring other services, and preparing for an extremely tough winter, with finite resources and resilience.

“We would also urge the population as a whole to continue to be understanding and to abide by restrictions.”

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