Ambitious plans to test 10 million people a day could lead to tens of thousands of people self-isolating needlessly, experts have said.
The Government's Operation Moonshot will reportedly see 10 million people tested each day at a cost of £100billion, but academics have claimed around 10,000 people could receive a false positive each day.
This will result in “unnecessary isolation and hardship” for these people and their contacts, they said.
The academics from the universities of Glasgow, St Andrews and Newcastle, said: “A new strategy is required, with clinical input, clinical oversight and integration into local primary care and public health systems”.
They claim that the decision to separate local public health departments and GP systems from the private sector testing system may have led to “delayed outbreak control”.
They wrote: “In setting up a parallel testing system in the private sector, local public health departments and primary care were separated from the testing system.
“As a result, the statutory notiﬁcation system for reporting suspected cases was not followed. This resulted in poor community data which is likely to have delayed outbreak control.”
On Operation Moonshot they wrote: “Despite the failings of this largely private, highly-centralised NHS Test and Trace system, it has been reported that the government intends to scale up testing to deliver weekly tests for the whole population.
“Deloitte and a slew of commercial companies are being contracted to deliver them under Operation Moonshot, a plan to ramp up tests to 10 million a day, at a cost of 100 billion pounds – 70 per cent of the annual NHS budget for England.
“Ten million tests a day will generate 10,000 people testing falsely positive a day and result in unnecessary isolation and hardship for them and their contacts.”
The test and trace system will “continue to be ineffective” if it does not consider local public health and general practice expertise, the researchers suggested.
The article concludes: “We call on the Westminster government to end privatisation of testing and to reinstate and invest in NHS primary care, public health, and NHS laboratory services, and redirect the resources from the current private testing programmes back into the local primary care, local NHS labs and local public health sector.”