NHS Test and Trace brings together testing, contact tracing and outbreak management into an end-to-end service to help prevent the spread of the virus, protect local communities and save lives. It provides protection for family, friends, colleagues and the community, and is here to keep all of us safe and allow us to enjoy summer safely. We take a look at how the system is working and talk to one member of the thousands of team members about her experiences.
Everyone with symptoms of coronavirus, no matter how mild, can now get a free test and help continue the efforts to beat the pandemic and get our lives back to normal. The tests are quick, easy, generally pain free and will play a key role in stopping the spread of coronavirus. Everyone can play their part in tackling and restricting the spread of coronavirus by isolating if they show symptoms such as a high temperature, a new continuous cough or loss of sense of smell or taste.
Once you have self-isolated, book a test as soon as possible, and if asked to do so, identify your close contacts. The quickest way for people to get a test result is to use one of the drive-through or walk in testing sites, with the majority of in-person test results received the next day after the test.
Before an effective vaccine can be found for coronavirus, NHS Test and Trace 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.
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 health protection expert. Once the person with COVID-19 has inputted the details of their 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 follow up any contacts who can’t be reached by text or email.
NHS clinical contact caseworkers are health professionals who interview people who have tested positive for coronavirus by phone to understand where they have been and who they have been in close contact with. This might include people who are under 18, those who can’t be contacted through text or email and those who don’t have access to a computer. They escalate complex cases to the Public Health England team.
When we spoke to NHS Test and Trace clinical contact caseworker Sarah Hartle last month, she was excited about the opportunity to put years of hard work into practice.
Sarah, 34, from Manchester, has been a dental nurse ever since she left school and has been studying at university to become a dental hygienist.
She successfully gained her qualification on the day the country went into lockdown back in March. Although she was frustrated that she couldn’t start her new role she was keen to use her training as part of the NHS Test and Trace process.
She said: “As an NHS clinical contact caseworker, I am responsible for liaising over the phone with Covid-19 patients, understanding their situation and assisting in the tracing of anyone they have been in contact with.” Sarah has dealt with many cases since she started the role, from elderly patients, parents struggling to look after their children whilst ill, to a lady that had just given birth.
NHS TEST AND TRACE: Clinical contact caseworker Sarah Hartle.
The mother of two young children said: “The number of cases is now dropping, which is fantastic news.
“I really feel like we’ve helped to make a difference in that as a team!
“Updates have been made to the system that has made our roles as contact tracers even more effective.
“For example, as travel regulations changed, so did the system, allowing us to collect the relevant information from patients for taxi rides and international travel, which has been invaluable.
“The translation service is wonderful and the document outlining procedure is easy to follow, quick, and works extremely well. I have used the translation service on a call and found that the patient responded very positively.
“Inevitably, we have come across queries in the role as each patient is so different, but these queries have all been fed back to the system developers who are continually updating the system for the better.
“This makes it much easier to identify outbreak risks for patients and contacts, and collect the correct information in one call to the patient, meaning we can act more swiftly in escalation, contact tracing and protecting people.
“I am really enjoying being part of NHS Test and Trace. My role is crucial in helping to stop the spread of the virus so that we can continue to ease lockdown. NHS Test and Trace will only work though if people engage with us and play their part to work together for the greater good to stop the spread of the virus.”
NHS TEST AND TRACE IS SAVING LIVES
CONTACT TRACING: Most effective way of controlling spread of virus.
If you have symptoms, play your part; get tested, protect your friends and family.