NHS Test and Trace has seen its worst week on record for the proportion of contacts it manages to trace.
The NHS doesn’t run the nationwide system to stop the spread of the disease, but instead it is outsourced to private sector companies.
This use of the private sector companies comes as Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet software may have led to the misplacing nearly 16,000 Covid test results.
The data error led to 15,841 positive tests being left off the official daily figures and not contacted to self-isolate, potentially spreading the disease throughout large areas of the country.
Coronavirus cases are now doubling about twice as fast in the North West, Yorkshire and the West Midlands as for the whole of England, according to the largest Covid-19 study of its kind.
Experts behind the React study suggested the rate of growth of the epidemic across England has slowed in the last month, but the country was now at a “critical point in the second wave”.
Some 68.6% of close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England were reached through the system in the week ending September 30, the lowest weekly percentage since Test and Trace began, and down from 72.5% in the previous week.
The data also shows that 25.7% of people who were tested for Covid-19 in England in the week ending September 30 at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit – a so-called “in-person” test – received their result within 24 hours.
This is down from 38% in the previous week, and is the lowest weekly percentage since the week ending June 10 (18.4%).
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had pledged that, by the end of June, the results of all in-person tests would be back within 24 hours.
Of the 34,494 people transferred to the Test and Trace system in the week to September 30, 74% were reached and asked to provide details of recent close contacts.
This is the lowest percentage since the first week of Test and Trace (the week to June 3), when the proportion reached was 73.4%.
Overall, 51,475 new people tested positive for Covid-19 in England in the week to September 30, according to the latest figures.
This is an increase of 56% in positive cases on the previous week and is the highest weekly number since Test and Trace was launched at the end of May.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) under Freedom of Information rules, have said that there are currently 1,114 consultants from Deloitte who are working on the scheme, underlining the scale of the government’s reliance on the private sector.
Deloitte, which has both accounting and management consultancy arms, charges anything up to £2,360 a day for each of its consultants.
Sky News reported that on the basis of Deloitte’s charge sheet, and presuming those consultants have been working since April, the cost could run as high as £200m to £300m.
However, it could be even higher as Private Eye reported it had seen a rate card that shows partners charging £1,450 per HOUR, with junior assistant managers charging £660 an hour and interns at £290 an hour.
Richard Burgon MP Tweeted: “1,000 consultants from Deloitte are working on the Test and Trace system and being paid up to £2,300 per DAY. That’s as much as many nurses earn in a MONTH. Scandalous. Kick them out. Give the funds to the NHS.”
The government is also employing consultants from McKinsey, BCG, PWC, KPMG and EY – however their combined numbers total 144.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We continue to work with a wide range of public and private sector partners as we respond to this unprecedented global pandemic.
A Deloitte spokesperson said: “Deloitte is immensely proud to have been able to step up and answer the government’s call to British businesses to support the national testing programme when the pandemic first emerged. At short notice we have provided the capacity, skills and expertise at the scale needed to support this critically important programme.