Government has agreed to hand over a third of the national track and trace workforce to local authorities as fears grow over the performance of the central system.

Of the 18,000 people currently working for the service, 6,000 will work directly alongside councils from August 24 to trace people it has been unable to reach.

The approach has already worked in Blackburn, where the local authority has now been able to track down nine out of ten people the national system had previously missed.

But it represents a departure from the government’s original strategy, which had only allowed town halls to deal with specific outbreaks, rather than more routine cases.

It follows concerns from Greater Manchester and elsewhere about the national system - which managed to complete just 47pc of cases in Oldham in figures released last week - and stories of contact tracers sitting with no work to do.

Figures showing the national system's success rate here, released last week

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester had called for any extra capacity to be handed over to councils, which have proved more effective at teasing information out of people and locating their contacts.

This afternoon the Department of Health and Social Care appeared to confirm that would happen, while local authorities will also be able to automatically access central data to follow up on cases that have so far slipped through the net, another key request.

It said the new approach would provide ‘dedicated ring-fenced teams’ to support local authorities, focusing on specific areas with local directors of public health.

“This integrated national and local system combines specialist local knowledge with the additional resources and data required from NHS Test and Trace,” said the department.

“It has already been successfully used in Blackburn with Darwen, Luton and Leicester and is now being offered to all upper tier Local Authorities who are responsible for public health locally.”

Blackburn, where the council set up its own system

The change of tack comes after weeks of concerns among councils about the quality of the national contact tracing system and its ability to track people down.

Some local authorities had set up their own teams in order to try and find people - and in Blackburn, the local director of public health Dominic Harrison said this weekend that had already managed to find nine out of ten people missed by the national system.

It also comes amid nervousness about rising infection rates in many parts of the north and a need to clamp down on the virus before schools reopen in three weeks.

Executive Chair of NHS Test and Trace, Dido Harding, said: “NHS Test and Trace is one of the largest contact tracing and testing systems anywhere in the world, and was built rapidly, drawing on the UK’s existing health protection networks, to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Baroness Dido Harding

"At the height of the pandemic we ensured the system had extra capacity in place to cope with potential peaks in the virus.

“We have always been clear that NHS Test and Trace must be local by default and that we do not operate alone – we work with and through partners across the country. As we learn more about the spread of the disease, we are able to move to our planned next step and become even more effective in tackling the virus.

“After successful trials in a small number of local areas, I am very pleased to announce that we are now offering this integrated localised approach to all local authorities to ensure we can reach more people in their communities and stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Andy Burnham said the government had met two out of three of his requests around contact tracing.

He welcomed the decision to provide more data to councils, as well as more resource, although ministers have yet to provide financial support to those who cannot afford to self isolate.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

“With this announcement from the Government today, two out of the three appear to have been delivered and whilst we await the full detail, I very much welcome the fact that they are clearly listening,” he said.

“But they need to go further ahead of the re-opening of schools in September.

“NHS Test and Trace will not work properly until all employees are supported to follow its requests to self-isolate.

“There is growing evidence that people in the lowest-paid jobs are not cooperating with the system because of the fear of falling into debt.

"This is why we have today launched the Time Out to Help Out campaign - a call on the government to give all employees the ability to self-isolate without losing pay.

“Only by ending the pay penalty will we see the NHS Test and Trace get anywhere close to being the 'world-beating' service we were promised. Failure to do so will leave our poorest communities exposed to real risk of harm this winter.”