Doctors say local Covid-19 data is needed quickly to target outbreaks

Support us and go ad-free

Giving local authorities accurate and up-to-date data on spikes in coronavirus (Covid-19) cases could help save lives, leading doctors have said.

The British Medical Association (BMA) implored the government to ensure that local leaders were given timely information about cases in their area to help contain the spread of the virus.

It comes after ministers faced criticism for the handling of the surge of cases in Leicester.

The BMA urged the government to share “timely, comprehensive and reliable” information to all those involved in the management of new cases at a local level.

It also called for clarity about how regional spikes will be managed in the future.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA Council, said: “The prime minister has talked about a ‘whack a mole’ strategy to tackle local outbreaks, but this is no use if the people leading the response on the ground – be they public health teams or local leaders – are not given the most accurate up-to-date data possible.

“This is crucial to allow swift action and to protect lives and the health service, and something that is not happening right now.

Coronavirus – Tue Jun 30, 2020
A Covid-19 testing centre set up at Highfields Community Centre in Leicester (PA)

“This is all the more important given that the ‘world leading’ test and trace app is not in place, meaning local leaders and teams armed with up-to-date information will be vital in containing spread of outbreaks.”

Ahead of further lockdown restrictions being eased at the weekend, the BMA made a series of demands from the government.

These include the use of set “metric trigger points” at which action will be taken to reintroduce local and national restrictions, which would take into consideration the regional reproductive rate – known as the R rate – as well as the level of infections in communities.

It also stressed the importance of clear public health messaging that social distancing and infection control procedures should be adhered to.

Meanwhile, leading health academic Professor Chris Ham urged the government to give local leaders control over NHS Test and Trace.

In an opinion piece published in the British Medical Journal, Ham wrote: “A crisis on the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic requires a national response. But in a country as large and diverse as the United Kingdom, where the impact of the virus varies between areas, a national response is insufficient.

“Local leadership is also essential, drawing on the expertise of devolved governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, local authorities, NHS bodies, and many other public sector agencies.

“A major weakness in the government’s handling of the crisis has been its failure to recognise and value local expertise.”

He said that the people who have been in contact with those confirmed to have the virus have been contacted by regional teams of Public Health England and local health protection teams.

This raises “serious questions about the value for money” of the national telephone-based service, he said.

“In the case of contact tracing, most of the work is now being done by regional teams in Public Health England and local health protection teams led by directors of public health employed by local authorities,” Ham wrote.

“Recent statistics show that in its first three weeks of operation, NHS Test and Trace reached around 113,925 people who were in contact with those who tested positive, of whom around 90 per cent were traced by Public Health England and local health protection teams.

“The remainder—amounting to just 12,247 people—were reached by the national telephone-based service run by Serco and Sitel, which employs around 25,000 staff. This raises serious questions about value for money in the use of public resources in a contract reported to be worth up to £108 million.

“In my view, bringing these staff under the control of local authorities is overdue.”

Ham, former chief executive of the King’s Fund health thinktank, concluded: “Local leaders, including devolved governments and elected mayors, are much better placed than the Westminster government to engage their communities in limiting and responding to future outbreaks.

“To do so effectively, these leaders must be given control of test and trace to rectify the flaws in the government’s ill judged design.”

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us