Contact tracer speaks out: reduced follow-up and emergency hiring

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An NHS clinical contact tracer

My job is to interview by phone people who have received positive results anywhere in the country. I am a ‘tier-two’ clinical contact tracer (the name has no relation to England’s new lockdown tiers).

As part of this, I used to have to ‘escalate’ cases who attended workplaces, schools or universities. This meant sending their details to the ‘tier-one’ contact tracers – local ‘health protection teams’ – for a more detailed containment response.

As I’m writing this, a week has passed since my instructions suddenly changed (see exclusive ‘stop press’ report in the last Socialist). Escalating single cases had to stop.

My worry is that schools won’t find out until they have two or more cases, by which time the virus could be spreading through multiple households.

Of course, I could be wrong. Perhaps tier one now has alternative ways of finding out about that first case, and will contact the school more quickly?

Either way, the instruction states that “single cases in these settings are no longer followed up by the Level 1/local HPTs.” Why not?


And with no explanation for the abrupt change, it adds weight to the idea that tier one might have been overwhelmed by the number of cases since term started.

After this change, another email from NHS Professionals – presumably sent to other tier-two clinical contact tracers too – asked if I wanted to apply to become tier-one. Then a further email arrived, saying any unsuccessful applicants to become tier-two earlier this year could now start almost immediately, depending on how many hours they can work.

As so much has already failed, unless the Department of Health comes up with an explanation, I’m assuming these show a system strained to near breaking point.

Track and trace must have local, democratic, community and workers’ control, with all the resources needed, to stop the spread of Covid-19. The privateers – Serco, Sitel and Co – must be kicked out.