Before the vaccine roll out, it’s easy to forget now how much faith was placed in NHS Test and Trace. Announcing the new system in spring last year, the then Health Secretary Matt Hancock lauded contact tracing, claiming it would enable an NHS clinician and the person with the virus to work together ‘like detectives’ to identify the possible movements of the virus.
Fifteen months on, such optimism has long gone as costs have spiralled. In June this year, the National Audit Office reported there were still significant weaknesses in the system, particularly around slow turnaround times for test results. It came two months after the Commons Public Accounts Committee concluded there was ‘no clear evidence’ the venture contributed to a reduction in infection levels. Such criticism is blamed for putting the kibosh on chief Dido Harding’s dreams of leading the NHS.
So, what do we have to show for the £22 billion spent on contact tracing? Well, among the costs included in the programme are £4.4 million worth of snappily branded test and trace merchandise. Mr S has done some digging, with official figures recording five companies – G4S, Levy, Mitie, Sodexo and Serco – ran up that bill between March 2020 and July 2021.
Sodexo came top with a net £1.6 million sum spent on such items as polo shirts, hats, fleeces, and high visibility jackets and vests. Close behind was Mitie on £1.2 million – which it estimates was around £130 per person – followed by Serco’s £843,000 including £515,000 on jackets, £159,000 on fleeces and £117,000 on polo shirts. Security service company G4S meanwhile spent £584,000, preferring to give its staff £219,000 in soft shell jackets and £189,000 on high visibility coats. Levy meanwhile spent £158,000 on uniform, not including such high visibility coats as they were not branded due to lead times.