How do Deloitte’s Covid19 testing sites in West Yorkshire sit with Public Health England’s plan for test and trace?

Covid-19 testing sites information from West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care:

Across West Yorkshire and Harrogate we have been scaling up our efforts to boost testing capacity for coronavirus to protect the vulnerable, support keyworkers, and ultimately save lives. Alongside local testing centres, thousands of tests are being made available at the National West Yorkshire centres at the Temple Green drive-through in Leeds, Bradford University car park, Horton Road; and four satellite services at Halifax, Huddersfield, Keighley and Wakefield.

As we increase our testing capacity, we are continuing to expand the offer to a wider group of people and members of their household. Further information about eligible groups is here:

As an extension to the national testing programme, and with the aim of increasing access to testing, two mobile testing sites were operating at:
· Todmorden sports centre, Ewood Lane, Todmorden 6-8th May
· Scissett baths, Wakefield Road, Scissett, Huddersfield 7th-9th May

People need to book a testing appointment via the national booking system at:
The mobile units offered drive through and pedestrian testing.

The number of tests is additional to the current facilities with NHS laboratories in West Yorkshire hospitals.

Data from Deloitte test sites/Lighthouse labs is not reaching Councils’ public health services or GPs

The Health Service Journal reports that data from the national Covid 19 testing scheme is going into a ‘black hole’.

This is making it harder for local organisations to respond to the spread of coronavirus in their area.

Local officials and clinicians told HSJ they need the information for responding to the levels of outbreak in their area — such as focusing containment measures and other services on particular areas — and that it would be needed for track and trace measures. It is also needed for monitoring how many critical staff have tested positive, and what capacity there is for carrying out more tests.

A public health director for a patch in the south of England heavily affected by the virus, said they also had no access to testing data from non-NHS lab tests. He added: “The system remains a mess – multiple routes to test, multiple command structures via the NHS. How are DsPH expected to manage and direct testing?

CK999 has reported on the government’s creation of a parallel, privatised Covid-19 testing/tracing system that bypasses the NHS and local authorities’ public and environmental health services.

Government’s expert team for nationwide coronavirus test and trace programme headed by Tory peer

The programme is being run by the NHS Improvement chair and Tory peer Dido Harding, former management consultant at McKinsey & Company. She resigned as CEO of TalkTalk in May 2017 after a security breach of four million customers’ personal and banking details in 2015.

In October 2019, Baroness Dido Harding was appointed interim Chair of Genomics England – where she was one of two former McKinsey consultants to hold top positions. The McKinsey connection and the involvement of US corporate giant Optum – a subsidiary of United Health, the NHS England boss’s former employer – seriously raises the question of who is to benefit from its publicly-funded work. The public? Or global corporations feeding off the incomparably rich medical data of our NHS?

In May 2020 she left Genomics England to become Chair of the government’s largely privatised test and trace programme. Baroness Harding will report directly to prime minister Boris Johnson and cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill. (In June 2020 Mark Sedwill announced he would quit in September. This followed hostile briefings against him that attempted to blame civil servants for mistakes over coronavirus. His replacement as Cabinet Secretary is Simon Case, who was seconded from his job as private secretary to Prince William and now has the task of overseeing the implementation and delivery of the UK’s COVID-19 policies. Before that, he was principal private secretary to Prime Ministers David Cameron and Theresa May. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said,

“His years of experience at the heart of government and working for The Royal Household make him ideally suited for this crucial role”.

Reporting to Boris Johnson and Simon Case, Dido Harding leads on:

  • The new contact-tracing app being trialled on the Isle of Wight (since ditched by the government after disquiet in the Board overseeing its development).
  • Swab testing.
  • Antibody testing.
  • Contact tracing.
  • National surveillance.
  • Immunity certification.

What could possibly go wrong?

Tom Riordan, Leeds City Council Chief Exec, has been appointed to Baroness Harding’s “expert team” to lead on contact tracing. According to the Local Government Chronicle, this means

“Local government is to be handed a bigger role in tracking cases of Covid-19.”

But the government’s rush to set up a privatised test, trace and track scheme in parallel to the existing public health and environmental health services and NHS labs has predictably led to a situation that looks like chaos and confusion.

Meanwhile, Public Health England has set up its own test and trace working group

Public Health England has written to local Directors of Public Health about the role of the public health system in the privatised national testing/tracing scheme.

It is very hard on the face of it to see how these two systems can work effectively together. Or why the government even set up the parallel privatised system.

A view apparently shared by GP Margaret McCartney, author of The State of Medicine: Keeping the Promise of the NHS

Public Health England has set up a Design Working Group to plan for how local authority areas will

“link across services into specific local COVID response arrangements.”

This includes

“interfac[ing] with Local Resilience Forums and Integrated Care Systems/Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships and work[ing] with Public Health England in focusing on the most complex outbreaks, especially care homes.”

But how does Public Health England’s Design Working Group relate to Baroness Harding’s “expert team”?

Several perplexing questions

There are many more questions about the Design Working Group, including its operations at regional and national levels.

First, at the moment, there isn’t even any structure for regional and national public health Covid-19 testing and tracing – the consequence of a decade’s fragmentation of public health services following the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, and years of funding cuts.

The Public Health England letter to local Directors of Public Health says,

The regional level will focus on the mobilisation of a large workforce of health professionals and call handlers that is being recruited through the DHSC programme.

This will happen through 14 Association of Directors of Public Health networks working with Public Health England regions

“on a footprint of nine areas across the country, including agreeing any sub-regional variations.”

A lead Director of Public Health from their network will work with the Public Health England regional director to establish this level. They will seek a named contact in each public health team, who will then link with the colleagues in their area, including in district councils.

Where does the regional level of Public Health England’s Design Working Group fit in with the cat’s cradle of private company contracts with the Department of Health and Social Care?

It’s unclear to us how this regional Public Health level will interface with

  • Deloitte (that has been paid by the Department of Health and Social Care for who knows what exactly, although it seems they are tasked with organising the logistics of drive through testing sites: Deloitte says it has worked with the government “and various suppliers” to assist with the setting up of testing, and “designing and building a digital platform” to book appointments and register test kits) – particularly when data from their sites are going into a ‘black hole’.
  • The public/private Lighthouse Labs that are analysing the Deloitte tests.
  • Serco and Sitel that have DHSC contracts for tracing contacts of people who have tested positive at Deloitte and other testing sites.
  • The testing sites have been set up and run by many different private companies including G4S, (which describes its role as doing everything except administer the tests, which is done by Boots. Their tasks include ordering the testing kits, managing delivery and logistics of the kits being taken for testing, alongside the necessary documentation, building the kits and handing them to Boots, booking people in, processing their tests, and making sure that kit follows them from beginning to end.) The Calderdale testing sites are run by Sodexo. Across England, Sodexo runs 40 Mobile Testing Units (which it took over after the army pulled out), 16 regional drive-through testing centres and three local walk-in centres.
  • Boots the Chemist, a subsidiary of US company Walgreens, which is advertising to recruit 1,000 current staff and volunteers to work at least 32 hours a week as unpaid Covid-19 swab testers across the UK.

Boots says it is working with the Department of Health and Social Care to set up and staff test stations across the country – with unpaid volunteers.

The Daily Telegraph reports the view of Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton:

“Unless Boots is offering its services to the Government for free, it’s difficult to understand why it’s expecting anyone to do such important work for zero pence.

“Having a comprehensive test, track and trace programme in place is crucial if we are to beat the virus.

“So rather than work with private companies seeking to take advantage of people’s good nature, the Government would be better placed utilising the experience of NHS staff returning from retirement, or the healthcare students in their final years, to help expand the UK’s testing capacity.”

Adecco Group, a global employment company, has been advertising phone/computer based contact-tracing jobs that can be carried out from home, for £8.72 per hour – the minimum wage for over-24s.

Presumably this is for Serco, G4S etc that have contracts for the government’s contact tracing service. Serco is also said to be recruiting from among its call-centre staff but does not seem to have any recruitment ads.

Where does this leave regional public health test and trace operations?

National Public Health England Contact Tracing and Advisory Service

At the national level, PHE is pulling together a co-ordinating team to run the PHE web-based Contact Tracing and Advisory Service (CTAS) and produce and update training materials, operating procedures and reports.

They are looking for Public Health staff to be seconded to this team by local authorities and any other organisations.

As with the regional public health set up, how does this sit with the the government’s/NHSX contact tracing follow up call handling service, which is being largely outsourced to unsavoury companies Serco and G4S?

Public Health England say they will also soon be looking for Contact Tracing Team Leads from local government and from Public Health England. They basically will

“link the regional and national levels by providing professional expert points of contact to the health professional contact tracing workforce, and being part of the work to identify the response to local contact tracing priorities.

Public Health England would fund the employers of people undertaking these roles, which they say NHS Professionals are recruiting to. Confusingly, NHS Professionals seems to call these jobs Clinical Contact Caseworkers. They are basically clinical backup advice for the call handler contact tracer. Which sounds a bit different from Public Health England’s Contact Tracing Team Leads. Maybe they are different jobs. But who knows?

Updated 12.11.2020 with link to this Open Democracy article: Deloitte’s COVID ‘bonanza’: this is how much the British public have paid so far

Updated 7.12.2020 with info and links about G4S and Sodexo Covid19 testing sites, and info about the replacement of Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill with Simon Case, seconded from his job as Prince William’s Private Secretary

One comment

  1. It’s 13th May and the virus has been in the country since January. How come they are still ‘setting this up’? Are the Govt waiting for when the second wave of deaths begins in 2 to 3 weeks, to start then? Will they have unraveled the knots by that time? By the appearance of their complexity and the questions raised here, it looks unlikely.

    Liked by 1 person

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