Save Lives, Scrap Serco Now?

“Govt is outsourcing Public Health under our noses to a company with a failed TRACK record, all too easy to TRACE we need to ISOLATE Serco now! Stay alert, save lives, end outsourcing”.

“Contact tracing is vital if we’re going to get out of lockdown safely, hug our loved ones again and save lives. But instead of putting local public health experts in charge, health secretary Matt Hancock has handed over responsibility to Serco – a private outsourcing company that has already put lives at risk.

“It has now been revealed that Serco’s CEO said he hopes it will “cement the position of the private sector” in our NHS. Don’t let him get away with this.

“Matt Hancock, end Serco’s role in contact tracing in England now.

“Put local public health teams and local health services (including GPs and NHS labs) back in charge of testing and contact tracing in the community”.

The NHS coronavirus test-and-trace system designed to prevent a second deadly wave is not expected to work at full speed until September or October, the Guardian has learned. Tony Prestedge, the chief operating officer of the NHS scheme, admitted in a webinar to staff that the programme would be “imperfect” at launch, adding that he hoped it would be operational at a world-class level within three to four months.

It comes as a leaked email from the chief executive of Serco, one of the main companies contracted to deliver the service, revealed how he doubted the scheme would evolve smoothly but said he wanted it to “cement the position of the private sector” in the NHS supply chain.

The disclosures come as scientists said lockdown measures should not be eased until the test-and-trace service is well established. The system, which tracks those who have contracted coronavirus and anyone they have been in contact with, before asking them to self-isolate, was rolled out across England last week with the help of 25,000 contact tracers.

Justin Madders, a shadow health minister, said the idea that the system may be months away from being fully operational was “deeply concerning”.

In a webinar for staff, Prestedge, a senior banker drafted in to help run the programme to trace infected people, said “I am sure when Dido [Harding, chief executive of scheme] announces this service later she will make clear that it is an imperfect service at launch that we will improve over time and make it world-class by the time that we are moving towards the September or October time.”

A leaked message from Rupert Soames , Serco’s chief executive, also revealed his own concerns about the early months of the programme. Serco is among a number of companies that are recruiting, coaching and managing contact tracers who do not have clinical training.

They have taken the bulk of the work, recruiting 10,000 of the new 25,000 contact tracers after being awarded an initial fee of £45.8m, which could rise to £90m.

In an email forwarded to staff, which was then immediately recalled, a message from Soames said “There are a few, a noisy few, who would like to see us fail because we are private companies delivering a public service. I very much doubt that this is going to evolve smoothly, so they will have plenty of opportunity to say I told you so.”

It continued: “If it succeeds…it will go a long way in cementing the position of the private sector companies in the public sector supply chain. Some of the naysayers recognise this, which is why they will take every opportunity to undermine us”.

Soames also asked managers to make sure employees behave in a way to survive the “Daily Mail test”, explaining that this meant “that you would not mind their behaviour being described on the front of a national newspaper. It is inevitable that someone somewhere is going to behave badly” he said, adding that he wanted to know immediately to resolve the issue.

He continued “At Serco we have a fair amount of experience managing difficult issues and one of the hard lessons we have learned is that the truth we can manage, it’s the evasion or cover up that destroys you”.

Serco said the message from Soames was not recalled but may have been forwarded to a wider group of employees in an email that was recalled. Madders said “The government’s own scientific advisers have said that an effective track, trace and isolate system must be fully operational before the lockdown is relaxed further so any suggestion that we may be months away from that is deeply concerning.

“We need assurances from ministers that they urgently ensure an effective system is in place and working effectively. To move ahead with further easing of the lockdown without this vital system working fully would be a huge gamble that no responsible government should take”.

In the Calderdale NHS it’s reported “How many Serco contact tracers does it take to get in touch with one Covid19 contact? Five! The 25K Serco contact tracers only got in touch with 5,278 contacts of people who tested positive for Covid19, during the week 28 May-3 June. Just as well public health teams are on hand – they traced the other 80% – amounting to 21,707 contacts – in outbreak investigations.


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