Dido Harding admits under-performing NHS Test and Trace operation needs to take a ‘big leap forward’

Dido Harding admits her under-performing NHS Test and Trace operation needs to take a ‘big leap forward’ to help the country get through the second lockdown but tells the CBI: ‘We will crack this’

  • Tory peer admitted the operation needed to get faster and better at using data 
  • She found time to take part in a round-table session at the CBI conference
  • Said: ‘It is a time for the organisation that I lead to take the next big leap forward’

The under-pressure boss of NHS Test and Trace admitted today it needs to take a ‘big leap forward’ during lockdown to help the country recover.

Tory peer Baroness Dido Harding admitted the operation needed to get faster and better at using data today as she found time to take part in a round-table session at the CBI conference.

The former TalkTalk boss is facing increasing calls to step down amid widespread criticism of its effectiveness after six months in action.

Last week Boris Johnson said he had  ‘full confidence’ in Baroness Harding despite the continued poor performance of what is mean to be a ‘world-beating’ system under her management. 

Addressing the imminent four week lockdown in England the Tory peer said the main problem was people who had Covid but no symptoms. 

‘Every country is grappling with the same problem and despite everyone’s best efforts and all of the work of our team in NHS Test and Trace to be the second line of defence … the virus is spreading far too rapidly and too widely,’ she said.

‘So if that is where we are now, if we look ahead, as we go into another really challenging period for us as a country, it is a time for the organisation that I lead to take the next big leap forward.

‘As lockdown slows the spread of the virus we will be focusing on improving NHS Test and Trace so that when England emerges from lockdown we are better able to live with Covid though the winter and beyond.’

Tory peer Baroness Dido Harding admitted the operation needed to get faster and better at using data today as she found time to take part in a round-table session at the CBI conference.

Last week Boris Johnson said he had 'full confidence' in Baroness Harding despite the continued poor performance of what is mean to be a 'world-beating' system under her management

Last week Boris Johnson said he had ‘full confidence’ in Baroness Harding despite the continued poor performance of what is mean to be a ‘world-beating’ system under her management

The former TalkTalk chief executive, who is married to Conservative MP John Penrose, was appointed to run the system by Health Secretary Matt Hancock in May

The former TalkTalk chief executive, who is married to Conservative MP John Penrose, was appointed to run the system by Health Secretary Matt Hancock in May

The former TalkTalk chief executive, who is married to Conservative MP John Penrose, was appointed to run the system by Health Secretary Matt Hancock in May.

It is supposed to be a ‘world beating’ major weapon in the Government’s arsenal of anti-coronavirus measures because it is designed to halt an outbreak in its tracks.

But under her leadership the service has lurched from disaster to disaster, and last week registered another record-low performance.

Call handlers were only able to reach 59.6 per cent of contacts of infected patients last month, meaning almost 100,000 people who may have been infected were allowed to wander the streets. It prompted Boris Johnson to last week admit the system needed to improve.

It was slammed with further stinging criticism in September after failing to expand capacity ahead of the return of schools, even though top scientists warned it would lead to the UK needing to carry out hundreds of thousands of extra tests each day.

The management oversight left parents being asked to drive hundreds of miles to get a swab for the children, and forced those who had a test to wait, in some cases, more than five days for their results — even though the Government promised to give everyone a result within 24 hours by the end of June.

SAGE has warned the system needs to trace at least 80 per cent of contacts to be effective. It added that rapid turnaround times are ‘vital’ to curbing the spread of infections across the country.

Baroness Harding today defended the organisation, saying an organisation larger than Asda had been set up in fewer than six months. 

‘We know so much more that we did six months ago about how the disease is spreading … I know it is really tough and horrible for everyone as we head towards Thursday but actually i am quite hopeful that we have more tools in the armory than we had before,’ she said.

‘Test and Trace didn’t exist in March, it is a scale organisation the same size as Asda and it will get even bigger … there is a lot for us to be optimistic about that we will crack this.’

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