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Crucial system fighting to win war against virus

PUBLISHED: 11:00 03 July 2020 | UPDATED: 11:15 03 July 2020

IMPORTANT MESSAGE: The NHS Test and Trace messaging on a high street billboard   Picture: Glyn KIRK / AFP / Getty Images

IMPORTANT MESSAGE: The NHS Test and Trace messaging on a high street billboard Picture: Glyn KIRK / AFP / Getty Images

Archant

The NHS Test and Trace service brings together testing, contact tracing and outbreak management into an end-to-end service to stop the spread of the virus and help us move out of lockdown.

NHS Test and Trace is central to the UK Government’s coronavirus recovery strategyNHS Test and Trace is central to the UK Government’s coronavirus recovery strategy

It is central to the UK Government’s coronavirus recovery strategy and will enable life to return to as close to normal as possible, for as many people as possible, in a way that is safe and protects our NHS and social care.

The primary objective of NHS Test and Trace is to control the rate of reproduction, to reduce the spread of the virus and save lives.

HOW NHS TEST AND TRACE WILL CONTACT YOU

Health professionals such as newly-qualified dental hygienist Sarah Hartle signed up to be a clinical contact caseworker as part of the the NHS Test and Trace serviceHealth professionals such as newly-qualified dental hygienist Sarah Hartle signed up to be a clinical contact caseworker as part of the the NHS Test and Trace service

You’ll be contacted by email, text or phone.

Email will come from NHS Test and Trace.

Text messages will come from NHStracing.

Calls will come from 0300 0135000.

Data on positive laboratory tests is fed into the contact tracing system, which automatically contacts people with COVID-19 by text or email and invites them to log into the system and provide a range of information about where they have been and who they have met. People with confirmed COVID-19 will receive a phone call from a health professional if, for instance, they are unable to use the web-based system, they only have a landline, are under 18 years old or have not responded to emails and texts.

If a person with COVID-19 works in or has visited a venue like a care home, school hospital or prison, this can be considered for escalation to a Public Health England (PHE) health protection expert.

Once the person with COVID-19 has inputted the details of any close recent contacts (or a health professional entering details on their behalf), these contacts would themselves receive a text or email notification, explaining the need to self-isolate and inviting them to use the web-based system to receive further information.

Once contacts log-in, it will provide them with appropriate health advice, including what to do if they experience symptoms. Call handlers will follow up any contacts who can’t be reached by text or email. As the NHS Test and Trace service progresses, it is looking at the feasibility of asking people with symptoms of COVID-19 to use the web-based system from the moment they order a test, so that information on their contacts is ready immediately if a positive result is confirmed, or their test result is delayed.

The UK Government says the NHS Test and Trace service will provide protection for family, friends, colleagues and community. It is here to keep all of us safe. Before a vaccine can be found to beat coronavirus, it says contact tracing is the most effective way of controlling the spread of the virus and is being used around the world alongside social distancing and hygiene measures.

Everyone will need to play their part

To stop the spread of coronavirus, everyone will need to play their part by isolating if symptomatic, booking a test as soon as possible and identifying their close contacts if asked to do so.

Anyone displaying symptoms should book a test as soon as possible at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.

The symptoms are a high temperature or a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change in sense of smell or taste.

People should isolate if they are symptomatic, or if asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace.

It is important to share information about recent close contacts with NHS Test and Trace if you test positive.

CASE STUDY – SARAH HARTLE

Sarah Hartle had been studying to become a dental hygienist in Manchester for almost three years and on Monday, March 23 she finally qualified and was preparing to start her new career. But almost immediately, England was in lockdown. The 34-year-old said: “It was literally a few hours after I had qualified. I had been studying since 2018 and it had all been building to this but now I had nothing, no means of earning plus I had two young children who suddenly weren’t at school.

“Then I got this email through from the professional dental council, asking for healthcare professionals to join the virtual frontline. I had a look and being an NHS clinical contact caseworker seemed like the perfect job for me.

“I could choose my hours and work from home – so I could do 8am to noon on weekdays and spend the afternoon helping the children with their school work. Then I’d be able to put in a couple of eight-hour shifts at the weekend.”

Sarah says the work has been rewarding and opened her eyes to how all sorts of people can suffer in isolation. She said: “One lady said to me ‘Please can you call me every day because this has made me feel so much better’.

“It is just having someone to listen. I can’t understand what they are going through but I can give them a platform, a place where they can vent their frustration or talk about their anxiety and I can tell them everything they are doing is okay. So much of it is about reassurance.

“One of my first cases was a poor mum whose family had the virus and she seemed to feel so guilty about it. The whole family tested positive for it – the dad, a toddler and a young baby and she was convinced she had given it to all of them and felt so bad about it. She was so emotional and it was one of those where she just needed some support. Her partner couldn’t get out of bed he was so ill, and the whole family was really struggling.

“They were all isolating and she just needed someone to listen to her. I told her of course it was okay that the whole family wasn’t having proper meals – and that just grabbing something to keep them going was just fine during this time.

“So not only am I there to talk symptoms and advice on the medical side, but also the mental side too – offering emotional support. And then there is letting them know about the practical support that is out there too – like whether the council can help with the grocery shop.”

Sarah says there is no typical day as a clinical contact caseworker because no two calls are the same.

Some need very little assistance and it can be a very quick call, but others need to be handled with a lot of time and care. She said: “On a busy day I may do eight or nine calls in an eight-hour shift. You can be done with taking all the details sometimes, but then end up spending an extra half an hour on the phone talking about what they are having for tea! It’s that human interaction that people need when they are suddenly in isolation like this.”

NHS contact tracing went live on May 28. Between June 11 and 17:

6,923 people who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) had their case transferred to the contact tracing system.

70.3% of these were reached and asked to provide details of recent close contacts.

1,791 people (25.9%) could not be reached. An additional 263 people (3.8%) could not be reached at all as no communication details were provided for them.

30,286 people were identified as close contacts between June 11 and 17. Of these, 24,734 people (81.7%) were reached and asked to self-isolate.


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