Test and Trace described as muddled and expensive in damming MPs report

Test and Trace has not achieved its main objective of helping life return to normal and has been described as muddled, overstated and expensive in a damming report from MPs.

The Public Accounts Committee said the programme has been handed “eye-watering” sums of money - the equivalent of 20 per cent of the NHS’s entire annual budget – £37bn over two years.

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”.

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Test and Trace’s “continued over-reliance on consultants is likely to cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds”, the report states.

A negative lateral flow test next to advice from the NHS COVID app on an iphone to self isolate (PA)

The uptake of services provided by the programme was also described as “variable” as some vulnerable people are much less likely to take a test and than others.

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The programme has faced intense scrutiny since it went live last year, spearheaded by Baroness Harding, with the objective of testing the nation and tracing contacts of positive cases, with many businesses and individuals complaining over the summer when they were forced to isolate as a result of the so-called ‘pingdemic’.

The report comes the day after the highest Covid death toll since March was reported, with an additional 263 deaths within 28 days of a positive test added to the official UK records yesterday.

Dame Meg Hillier, Labour MP and chairman of the Public Accounts Committee described Test and Trace as having set “bold ambitions” but then failing “to achieve them despite the vast sums thrown at it”.

She said: “Only 14 per cent of 691 million lateral flow tests sent out had results reported, and who knows how many took the necessary action based on the results they got, or how many were never used. The continued reliance on the over-priced consultants who ‘delivered’ this state of affairs will by itself cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds.

“For this huge amount of money we need to see a legacy system ready to deliver when needed.

“But it’s just not clear what there will be to show in the long term. This legacy has to be a focus for government if we are to see any value for the money spent.”