United Kingdom

NHS Test and Trace is 25 PER CENT more successful in parts of Essex than in Bradford

Test and Trace is missing a third of people who may be infected with coronavirus in parts of England, according to official data which highlights a disparity in the £22billion programme. 

Statistics released by the Department of Health show a North-South divide has emerged in the success of the scheme, which experts say is crucial to keeping outbreaks under control.

Up to 90 per cent of contacts of Covid patients are tracked down in the best-performing places in Essex, Sussex and London, compared to just 65 per cent in parts of Yorkshire, Manchester and Newcastle. 

No10's scientific advisers say the contact tracing programme needs to reach 80 per cent of contacts to keep local epidemics under control.

Scientists reacting described the 'postcode lottery' as hugely worrying. Professor Gabriel Scally, a public health expert and former public health director for the South West of England, told MailOnline: 'It is clear evidence that the inequalities in local communities experience of Covid is very significant.'

The figures look at the percentage of people told to isolate after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus, and who therefore may be infected themselves. 

They look specifically at contacts who were not managed by local health protection teams. Instead, the data is based on the 85 per cent of contacts who are reached by call handlers. 

Data released by NHS England going up to February 17 show the shocking disparity between regions of the country in terms of how well the Government's £22billion coronavirus contract tracing scheme is reaching people

Areas in the South East performed best, with 90 per cent of contacts in Thurrock, Essex, reached by call handlers or the Test and Trace app. The area was followed by greater Essex and Sutton in London, which both saw 89 per cent of contacts told to isolate

AREAS WITH THE MOST COVID CONTACTS REACHED BY NHS TEST AND TRACE 

Thurrock, Essex

Essex

Sutton, London

Barking and Dagenham, London 

90 per cent

89 per cent

89 per cent

88 per cent

Southend-on-Sea, Essex

East Sussex

Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

 88 per cent

88 per cent

88 per cent 

Bexley, London

Bromley, London

Bracknell Forest, Berkshire 

88 per cent

88 per cent

88 per cent

AREAS WITH THE LEAST COVID CONTACTS REACHED BY NHS TEST AND TRACE 

Bradford, Yorkshire

Oldham, Greater Manchester 

Newcastle upon Tyne

Blackburn with Darwen, Lancashire

Nottingham

Manchester

Sheffield

Bolton

Rochdale, Greater Manchester

68 per cent

68 per cent

70 per cent

70 per cent

70 per cent  

Bradford in Yorkshire, the worst performing area, saw just 15,851 of 28,322 known contacts reached by NHS Test and Trace call handlers and online since Test and Trace began in May 28. 

This meant only 65 per cent of people known to have come into contact with the virus were told to self-isolate by the scheme, with almost 12,500 potentially infected people missed.

It was followed by Oldham and Newcastle upon Tyne, which both saw 66 per cent of known contacts traced, and Blackburn, Nottingham and Manchester, where 68 per cent of known contacts were traced by the system. 

Areas in the South East performed best, with 90 per cent of contacts in Thurrock, Essex, reached by call handlers or the Test and Trace app. It was followed by greater Essex and Sutton in London, which both saw 89 per cent of contacts told to isolate.

And Barking and Dagenham in London, East Sussex, Southend-on-Sea in Essex and Milton Keynes in Bedfordshire all saw 88 per cent of known contacts reached.

NHS Test and Trace's boss Baroness Dido Harding (pictured) was hauled before the Commons after a failure to ramp up capacity over summer led to unwell Britons being asked to travel 200 miles to get swabbed for the virus at the start of the academic year

Separate data shows 54,551 coronavirus-positive patients have not provided any contact details such as email addresses and mobile numbers since the scheme launched. It means tens of thousands of infected people have been allowed to carry on with their day-to-day lives, potentially spreading the virus further.

Professor Scally, a member of Independent SAGE, told MailOnline: 'The very wide disparity in the performance of contact tracing is hugely worrying. 

'Added to reports of variation in vaccination uptake and the fact that the UK is exceptional in not testing or close contacts, it is clear evidence that the inequalities in local communities experience of Covid is very significant.

'When schools are shortly coming back into full operation, it isn't easy to see how this can be safe if the community handling of Covid is so highly variable. 

'We know that at the end of the first lockdown last year, there were local authorities in the north of England where the virus was still freely circulating.' 

MailOnline's analysis of the figures shows there was a six percentage point difference in the success of Test and Trace between the richest and poorest parts of the country.

Using the Government's most recent indices of deprivation statistics — which measure deprivation in terms of incomes, education, health, employment, crime and more — each of the 149 unitary authorities reviewed by NHS Test and Trace were ranked in terms of how deprived they were.

The top 20 per cent most deprived areas saw an average of 76.4 per cent of known contacts reached by the program. Meanwhile a fifth of the least deprived areas of the country saw 82.7 per cent of people contacted by NHS Test and Trace. 

The Government's £22billion contact tracing system has been hit by a catalogue of errors since it first launched in May last year.

The system's boss Baroness Dido Harding was hauled before the Commons after a failure to ramp up capacity over summer led to unwell Britons being asked to travel 200 miles to get swabbed for the virus at the start of the academic year. 

Test and Trace is still missing thousands of infected people and two weeks ago Baroness Harding admitted the programme only cuts the speed of Covid's spread by around five per cent.

The scheme reached only 62.6 per cent of people who had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus in October. By last week, the scheme reached 80 per cent on average across regions.  

IS NHS TEST AND TRACE EXACERBATING COVID INEQUALITIES? THE TOP 20 PER CENT DEPRIVED AREAS IN ENGLAND HAD SIX PER CENT FEWER CONTACTS TRACED BY GOVERNMENT PROGRAMME

MailOnline's analysis of the Department of Health and Social Care's NHS Test and Trace figures shows there was a six percentage point difference in the success of Test and Trace between the richest and poorest parts of the country.

Using the Government's most recent indices of deprivation statistics from 2019 — which measure deprivation in terms of incomes, education, health, employment, crime and more — each of the 149 unitary authorities reviewed by NHS Test and Trace were ranked in terms of how deprived they were. 

The top 20 per cent most deprived areas saw an average of 76.4 per cent of known contacts reached by the program. Meanwhile a fifth of the least deprived areas of the country saw 82.7 per cent of people contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

Top 20 per cent most deprived areas

20 per cent second most deprived areas

20 per cent third most deprived areas

20 per cent four most deprived areas 

20 per cent least deprived areas 

76.4 per cent of contacts reached

79.0 per cent of contacts reached

80.7 per cent of contacts reached

82.5 per cent of contacts reached

82.8 per cent of contacts reached

The analysis echoes a Lancet study last December which showed that among the most deprived group of local authorities in England, 83% of positive cases were reached as compared to 86 per cent in the least deprived. 

The difference was greater when it came to reaching the contacts of those who had tested positive – 56 per cent were reached in most deprived areas as compared to 62 per cent in the least deprived. 

Adam Briggs, senior policy fellow at the Health Foundation, said: 'There may be many possible reasons why a lower percentage of people are reached by NHS Test and Trace in more deprived areas, but the information available doesn’t enable us to understand this in more detail. 

'Knowing why people in more deprived areas seem to have less contact with NHS Test and Trace is crucial to ensuring the system isn’t inadvertently widening inequalities, particularly as Covid already hits vulnerable communities hardest.

'Policies need to be developed to improve engagement with contact tracing, and to help people to isolate when necessary. 

'This may include better use of local expertise and knowledge, and addressing any gaps in available social, practical, and financial support for people isolating.'

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