- By Harry Bell
Scotland’s Test and Protect contact tracing system will see its workforce bolstered with the deployment of additional staff over the coming week to help address a rising number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, pictured left, said recent changes to the system are helping its performance and the way it operates will continue to evolve as vaccination levels rise.
Ascensos, one of Test and Protect’s existing commercial partners, has agreed an arrangement with Barrhead Travel to accelerate and augment the capacity they are providing to the contact tracing system by 100 staff. Additional contact tracing bank staff continue to be brought on board and existing bank staff mobilised.
Recent changes to the system have also been implemented aimed at ensuring a growing number of cases are closed by contact tracers and that high risk cases are prioritised. These include greater use of text messaging to contact lower risk index cases and digital self-tracing forms.
Mr Yousaf said: “Our Test and Protect workforce have played a vital role in the battle against this pandemic. We owe these contact tracing teams a huge debt of gratitude for all their efforts over the past year.
“The Test and Protect system has continued to operate well as case numbers have increased in recent weeks, contacting unprecedented numbers of people.
“This agreement to bring in additional staff follows our ongoing efforts this year to ensure commercial partners were on board in preparation for potential increases in demand on the contact tracing system.
“This extra workforce is important, but the success of the system going forward will not simply be about staffing numbers.
“Test and Protect will change as the population becomes more protected by vaccination and it will still play a key role in mitigating clusters and outbreaks in high risk settings, slowing infection spread and protecting populations at risk.
“As we announced last week, we are now using a variety of methods to contact people, including using digital methods like SMS messages for lower risk cases and prioritising calls for higher risk cases. These changes, along with extra staffing, will ensure that people are contact traced, and begin self-isolation, as quickly as possible. I’m confident that the performance of Test and Protect has started to improve in recent days.
“The majority of people comply when asked to self-isolate and we are thankful for the important role they are continue to play in stopping transmission of COVID-19.
“We will have to manage living with COVID-19 for some time to come, even when we are able to move beyond Level 0. While we hope we are in the process of emerging from the pandemic, case rates at the moment underline the fact that this virus is still with us.”
Meanwhile, recently announced measures have been implemented to streamline the contact tracing system to manage pressure on the system and ensure it is more efficient. These include greater use of text messaging to contact lower risk index cases and digital self-tracing forms.
The new approach ensures that the contact tracing system is using its resource appropriately and proportionate to public health risks: Test and Protect to prioritise high risk cases – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
Test and Protect is an NHS-led service which works with commercial partners to help augment capacity when required.
Contact tracing capacity in Scotland is split between the National Contact Centre operated by National Services Scotland (NSS) and the daily contact tracing workforce provided by territorial Health Boards.
All mainland health boards offer drop-in coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination clinics: Drop-in vaccine clinics in every mainland health board – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)