In a bid to protect people’s health and continue to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, a new strategy for the NHS test and trace has been put in place to increase the speed and reach of testing and tracing.
The new NHS Test and Trace strategy is part of the Government’s COVID-19 Winter Plan, and will be working in local partnerships, setting out the approach to disrupt and prevent COVID-19 transmission, protect people’s health, and enable people to return towards a more normal way of life.
The next phase of the service will focus on increasing the speed and reach of testing and tracing, better use of data, to help identify and react to clusters and outbreaks in close to real time, partnering with local leaders, backed by further funding worth potentially more than £200m per month, and increased collaboration with the public.
The next testing phase
New, lateral flow devices, which allow for rapid testing at scale, will be helping the NHS to reach millions more citizens. This rapid testing is a key priority for the NHS in order to help bring down local transmission rates and help Tier 3 areas move into a lower tier.
The new strategy will be ensuring a more enhanced role for local teams and Directors of Public Health, with 250 local tracing partnerships already live across the country. This will allow NHS Test and Trace to reach a greater number of people with the virus and their contacts.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Testing and tracing is an important tool in enabling us to return to a more normal way of life. NHS Test and Trace has built the biggest testing capability in Europe, and has made huge improvements in its contact tracing system. I am hugely grateful to everyone who is working so hard to deliver these improvements.
“With up to a third of people with coronavirus not showing any symptoms, it is incredibly important to test those who could be infecting others unknowingly, so we are rolling out community testing to bring down local transmission rates.”
Every local authority in upper tier regions will be supported to build capacity, using community-based tracers who can draw on local intelligence.
Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, Baroness Dido Harding said: “There are more than 50,000 people across the country working around the clock to expand and improve NHS Test and Trace. Since July, we have moved even closer to Public Health England and our combined, joint response has delivered an enormous amount.
“The extensive work NHS Test and Trace has done to accelerate development, and the introduction of innovative technologies, is giving us new possibilities. With new lateral flow tests we can turbo-charge our testing capacity and enable rapid, regular testing in hospitals, care homes, workplaces, universities and other areas that we value and that we need as a society to stay open and stay safe, enabling everyone to move towards a more normal way of life.
“We have more certainty about the virus and a clear line of sight as to how NHS Test and Trace can tackle it – as our second line of defence after hands, face, space. I am hugely grateful to everyone who has helped to bring NHS Test and Trace to this point and who stands ready to take it into the next phase.”