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England’s contact tracers 'making handful of calls' a month

Discussion in 'Personal' started by modelmaker, Aug 5, 2020.

  1. modelmaker

    modelmaker Lead commenter


    "It was hailed as a “world-beating” service by prime minister Boris Johnson at its launch, but three months on and contact tracers hired to work on England’s test-and-trace system say they are making only a handful of calls every month and are occupying their time with barbecues and quizzes.

    Agents told the Guardian they were often calling people who had already been spoken to by another contact tracer, and making calls to numbers that did not exist or that went straight through to voicemail.

    Employees at Sitel – one of the companies contracted to provide the service – said they were being given quizzes by team leaders to keep them occupied in the day and that prizes were even being offered to those making the highest number of calls to keep up morale. One contact tracer said that in one instance £50 was awarded to the highest ranking caller in each team, who was then put in a draw at the end of the month to win a TV.

    The details come amid growing frustration among local health officials about the national test-and-trace system, which was launched in May and was seen as vital to easing England out of lockdown. Run by the former TalkTalk executive Dido Harding, it involves more than 20,000 contact tracers, paid around £10 an hour, employed by private firms such as Serco.

    One contact tracer said they had made just a few calls in two months of work, two of which had been fake numbers. “I’ve heard of tracers claiming to be sat in the garden having a barbecue so that they can stay logged in and clock up the hours,” he added. “They aren’t alone – there’s hundreds, if not thousands, of similar stories.”

    Another agent said that they were sent daily icebreakers which included questions such as “what’s your favourite flower?”, and that they had to do pub quiz-style questions as a part of the team “to pass the time and keep people active”.

    He said: “It’s very juvenile, particularly when they treat us with extreme scepticism and negativity when calls aren’t coming in.”

    Data seen by the Guardian provided by an employee at the company Intelling, hired through outsourcing firm Serco, appears to show the scale of inactivity among employees, with 471 agents making just 135 calls in two days – around 0.14 calls per agent per day. This figure includes calls to incorrect numbers, voicemails, or multiple calls made to the same individual. One tracer working at the company said that one individual had been called by tracers 20 times."

    What on earth is going on?
  2. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    Are you in any way surprised ?
  3. WolfPaul

    WolfPaul Occasional commenter

    Repost from another thread, quote from BBC:

    NHS Test and Trace employs more than 20,000 call handlers and contact tracers.

    A figure often quoted in recent weeks to highlight its failings is the fact it fails to reach nearly half of contacts.

    This certainly seems to be poor, but once you include the so-called complex cases passed on to local teams, incorporating council staff and regional Public Health England teams, performance rises to over three-quarters.

    That is not far off what government experts said was needed to make the system effective.
  4. Katzenjammer

    Katzenjammer Senior commenter

    The track and trace staff can't have had their task made more accessible by people giving false names in some places - unless Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and P Luto really do drink in the Slug and Lettuce in Steeple Bumstead
    nizebaby likes this.
  5. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    They've contacted about one person each.

    As detailed by an expert on R5Live yesterday

  6. gainly

    gainly Star commenter

    Everyone I've ever heard interviewed who seems to know what they are talking about (i.e. excluding any government ministers or Dido Harding) has said this should have been done at a local level and the funds been made available locally. I suppose the government's priority was to give the money to dodgy outsourcing companies and the wife of a Tory MP.
  7. WolfPaul

    WolfPaul Occasional commenter

    But reaching about 75% of targets, according to a report from the said corporation this morning. Or would you rather the contact tracers be swamped with work?
  8. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    Someone interviewed on R4 yesterday, and I'm sorry, I can't remember who it was, analysed the figures and said they were actually only reaching half of the total number of people they need to, which isn't nearly enough, obviously.

    I spoke to someone who was quite proud of having avoided giving their name in at a cafe they visited. But then when I went to one I wasn't asked at all. I only thought about it a couple of days later. Should I have been?
  9. racroesus

    racroesus Star commenter

    Our app seems to be at 10% download. What is the percentage for England?
  10. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Which is hardly surprising, as there are nowhere near enough people infected with the virus any more in the UK. The vaccine testers have the same problem and have had to recruit people in Brazil and India to make up for the lack of British cases.

    Even the ONS Infection Survey estimates that only 35,700 now have the virus, which is less than 2 people per contact tracer, and that may well be an exaggeration because the ONS extrapolates the total infection rate from the fact that it merely found 24 infections out of some 20,000 tested in its weekly survey.
  11. Symingtons

    Symingtons Occasional commenter

    Finding 75% with one phone call per day on average? I don't think so.

    NB Dido Harding is actually also Mrs John Penrose, wife of a Tory MP. Wonder how she got the job?;)
  12. WolfPaul

    WolfPaul Occasional commenter

  13. WolfPaul

    WolfPaul Occasional commenter

    Or do you mean the Guardian's "data"? Which even itself described as "appearing" to show a particular figure.
    Jonntyboy likes this.
  14. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    A doctor on the radio yesterday who had been part of a voluntary experiment in and around Sheffield to see how good the approach was, it was really good. He said it was very successful and people were positive and responsible about thinking of where they had been. One of the big stumbling blocks came with some employers who didn't want it because they didn't want their workers isolating when they could be working.
  15. gainly

    gainly Star commenter

    Another problem is not everywhere is taking contact details, so there will be a lot of contacts not even known about.

    My brother visited two pubs last week and neither took contact details, I suspect that is quite common with people just buying a drink. There is no legal requirement to take details, it's just a recommendation.
    Then of course there are all the people on public transport where there is no way of collecting details or cleaning between passengers.

    So it's only 50% of people who have given their contact details who are being contacted.
    Jonntyboy likes this.
  16. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    Isn't that where the approach in the Far East worked well? People were automatically alerted on their phone if they had been near someone who had the virus.

    South Korea - 6 deaths per million
    UK - 683 deaths per million

    Still eh? we don't need people telling us what to do.
    ilovesooty likes this.
  17. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy Lead commenter

    Do you spend your time looking for biased Guardian articles with which to start threads on here in order to make simplistic attacks on the government that you (and The Guardian) hate?

    This year so far you have done this 122 times.

    Are you in fact employed by The Guardian? I mean, I know they are desperate for as many readers as they can get, so it's certainly one tactic they could use...
  18. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy Lead commenter

    How very naive.

    Apart from the vast differences in culture, demographics, races within the population and in the experience of pandemic viruses, there are also no Mickey Mice and Fred Bloggses in South Korea.
  19. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Yes, but the app also informed their government of where and when everyone had been, whom they had met and so on. Such a degree of government surveillance has not been found acceptable by any western government. Data protection issues of that sort were why the German government had to ditch its App and why the NHS has abandoned the centralised system it was working on in June.
  20. modelmaker

    modelmaker Lead commenter

    Since you've nothing better to do, why not count up the number of other news outlets I've extracted articles of interest from? I look at a variety of news sites for balance and apologise in advance for linking to right-wing sites that are renown to be unreliable.
    nizebaby likes this.

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