NHS TEST and Trace has CUT 6,000 contact tracer after many were "sitting around watching Netflix".

The Government is overhauling the way it hunts down the virus by cutting down on call handlers and moving remaining ones to help local authorities track down outbreaks.

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The number of call handlers working for the scheme will be cut from 18,000 to 12,000 as part of plans to make the service more effective in local areas.

It comes after areas with outbreaks announced they would be relying on a more localised effort after the national service failed to find contacts.

Non-NHS call handlers who survive the cull will work alongside local public health officials.

One contact tracer said she was effectively being "paid to watch Netflix".

She has been paid £4,500 to sit at home, where she has streamed shows such as Breaking Bad, Below Deck and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

She was signed up in May by Sitel, a private company tasked to help run the Government’s Covid-19 test and trace system.

The woman said: “I haven’t made a single call. I’ve been using the time to job hunt and watch Netflix.

“I signed up because I wanted to do my part. I almost feel like a fraud because I’m taking government money. They’ve just hired more people. It’s an absolute joke.”

Another contact tracer told The Sun he had time to go to IKEA in the middle of the day and had been paid for weeks without making a single call.

Blackburn with Darwen said last week they would use local knowledge to track down people who may have been in contact with a case of coronavirus.

Director of Public Health at Blackburn with Darwen Council, Professor Dominic Harrison said the national system is "not tracing enough cases and contacts fast enough."

This morning Health minister Edward Argar told Sky News the national service was still a "successful system" despite the plans to overhaul how it works.

He said: We’ve traced a quarter of a million in the space of about two and half months, that is a significant achievement.

“I do think that this is a reflection of an effective system built up rapidly that is now evolving to reflect the changing needs of local lockdowns and a local-centric approach.”

The latest official numbers from the Department of Health showed almost 5,000 close contacts had been missed by contact tracers – or 25 per cent of people compared with 22 per cent the week before that.

It emerged many people who were being called by the contact tracing system were not answering the phone because they were being contacted from a 0300 number which many people associate with spam calls.

 

 

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