Test and trace worker in England explains why they quit PM’s scheme


A STAFF member on Boris Johnson’s “world-beating” test and trace scheme has written about why they quit – claiming the programme is not fit to bring Britain out of lockdown.

It comes as advisers on Sage publicly warn the Prime Minister has made a “political” decision to further ease the lockdown in England, with about 8000 new cases still emerging each day and the test and trace system not ready to kick off locally until the end of June.

Now the anonymous former staff member has written for The Guardian on their experience working on England’s test and trace scheme, claiming employees are “not highly trained” and spend shifts doing very little.

READ MORE: Sage: Covid-19 is spreading too fast to ease lockdown, advisers say

They told the newspaper: “The training was very basic. We saw some slides about our role – the public health website we will use, and a script for what we had to say to people. We were told do not go off-script, and if there was anything we could not answer, we should ask our supervisor.

“The training was wrapped up early, and we were asked if we felt prepared. There was a chorus of no from many people. Some said yes, but I didn’t see how anyone could be prepared for something they’d only found out about a couple of hours ago, plus we hadn’t even accessed the specific programmes.”

The employee claims they were then told there was a further seven hours of self-led training to do before starting the next day – but were reassured it could be done in less than three.

When they started, they claim they logged in and saw a message saying they’d be invited to a chatroom and to wait. “I waited seven and a half hours (my entire shift),” they write. “I called the HR helpline after about one hour and was told to relax – everyone is waiting.”

READ MORE: Test and protect system to come into place this week

The former worker says the next day they spoke to others they completed their training with, who asked if they’d all spent their shift with nothing to do.

They claim days went by and frustration began to grow when staff saw news reports of employees saying they were facing the same waiting screen daily, spending their shifts watching Netflix and playing games online, with no guidance offered from supervisors. Eventually, they say, they “clocked up 40 hours of key worker pay for doing absolutely nothing”.

The former employee says when the Dominic Cummings story broke, they learned more about their job from watching the news than from their colleagues.

Then on Thursday the system “launched” in England. They write: “But for me, nothing changed. It was a day of waiting, no system access. Yet on TV at the daily briefing, Boris Johnson told the nation all was well.”

Concluding, the former worker says despite being motivated to help during this difficult time, they felt they were doing “pretend” work on the programme and have decided to quit.

Speaking directly to the Prime Minister and Health Secretary, the ex-employee says: “Please go into the chatrooms you created and read what people are saying.

“You will see a lot of anger and confusion from a lot of people. And none of them have any faith that we’re properly set up to fight any increase in infection rate from this pandemic.”

On Wednesday night Hancock said the contact tracing scheme, set up to help get England out of lockdown, would be launching the following day.

But on the first day there were widespread reports that contact tracers were unable to log on. Shortly after the head of the scheme admitted it would not be fully operational until the end of next month.

There have been 25,000 contact tracers recruited to question those who test positive for coronavirus about who have been in contact with.

Those deemed at risk of contracting the virus will then be told to isolate for 14 days even if they are not showing symptoms.

Scotland’s own contact tracing scheme, named test and protect, launched on Thursday.

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