NHS Test & Trace and Mass Testing
Decision Maker: Health Scrutiny Committee
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
A report on NHS Test & Trace and Mass
Testing in Lancashire.
Abdul Razaq, Consultant in Public Health gave a detailed overview of his report regarding the current position on NHS test and trace and mass testing.
The following points were highlighted:
· Hospital admissions were historically at the highest levels in January and February. The central government winter plan outlined a broad strategy to supress, mitigate and prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, via contact tracing and testing.
· Lancashire was working with the military to deliver a six week targeted surge programme of asymptomatic lateral flow testing to care and education settings, as well as the faith sector and large employers. This would culminate in those settings being trained to administer tests upon their withdrawal.
· All districts in Lancashire were conducting local contact tracing, in collaboration with the national system. The programme couldn't be completely devolved to a local level without national funding. It was confirmed that local contract tracing was more effective in reaching residents to offer support and guidance, reaching between 60-90%. Feedback had resulted in enhancements to the process which had reduced unnecessary repeat calls and shortened the turnaround time from test to transfer of information to Lancashire.
· There was now ample capacity for systematic testing and test turnaround times and responses had reduced in October and November.
· Central government had introduced a scheme to allow travellers returning to the UK to pay for a private test to release those with a negative result from the requirement to self-isolate.
· Community organisations will receive funding to cover initial costs, such as staff time, to provide lateral flow testing.
· According to data, the recently approved Pfizer/BioNtech Covid -19 vaccine was 95% effective and would be made available for a phased rollout based on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation priority list. This included hospital patients and staff, care home staff and residents, however there were logistical challenges regarding storage and transportation of the vaccine. Primary Care Networks were also planning a longer term vaccination programme according to patient priority based on the guidance. It was anticipated that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine would be approved in early January 2021.
In response to questions from members the following information was clarified:
· The time taken to pass contact tracing information from national to local tracers had reduced to 3-4 days. The local team were able to reach the vast majority of these within 48 hrs.
· The spare capacity of pillar two testing varied widely by district. Those without symptoms could book a test, however it was not policy to carry out these tests on those who were asymptomatic. The lateral flow test was intended for this purpose.
· Lancashire was working with a northwest oversight board who had developed a clear communications plan and frequently asked questions guide for the vaccination programme. Primary Care Networks would ensure invitations for the vaccination was made through a variety of methods: letter, text and by telephone, to ensure maximum contact.
· Quality assurance data had confirmed that the Innova lateral flow test was 48.89% accurate for positive results and 99.3% accurate for negative results. Those who tested positive were advised to book a swab test for confirmation and self-isolate unless they receive a negative result.
· District data on the number of self-isolation financial support payments rejected as ineligible was not available. It was confirmed that those with a positive result from a lateral flow test were eligible to apply.
· Transmission of the virus in hospitals was high and NHS colleagues were working to reduce this through infection control measures, implemented by a specialised team, however it may not be possible to totally eliminate the risk.
· The risk of infection increases after 15 minutes of exposure time to an infected person, however this would be reduced by following the advice: keeping two metre distance, wearing a mask, hand hygiene and room ventilation.
· Information wasn't available regarding the operational details of when each district would receive subsequent shipments of the vaccine batches.
· Mass vaccination provided an immune response that triggered the body to produce antibodies. It was yet to be determined as to if, and by how much, it would reduce transmission rates. It was anticipated that the phased rollout throughout community settings would complete in spring 2021, the final group being the non-vulnerable 50+ age group. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation would establish subsequent eligibility parameters for vaccination once the current prioritised groups had been vaccinated, however this would depend on volume of vaccine available.
Resolved: That the update report on national NHS Test and Trace enhancements, progress with local enhanced contact tracing (positive case completion) and community mass asymptomatic testing, be noted.
Report author: Gary Halsall
Date of decision: 15/12/2020
Decided at meeting: 15/12/2020 - Health Scrutiny Committee