Boris Johnson insists he has ‘full confidence’ in Baroness Dido Harding despite continued failures of coronavirus test and trace regime she runs amid Tory calls for her to QUIT
- NHS Test and Trace service was supposed to be key to controlling the disease
- But the system last week hit a record low, prompting demands for Harding to go
- Just 59.6% of contacts of people testing positive were found and told to isolate
- No10: ‘The Prime Minister continues to have full confidence in Dido Harding’
Boris Johnson has ‘full confidence’ in the former TalkTalk chief executive despite the continued poor performance of what is mean to be a ‘world-beating’ system under her management
Downing Street rallied around beleaguered NHS test and trace boss Baroness Harding today as the Tory peer faced calls from within her own party to step aside.
Boris Johnson has ‘full confidence’ in the former TalkTalk chief executive despite the continued poor performance of what is mean to be a ‘world-beating’ system under her management.
It came amid calls for her to step aside and allow someone else to breathe new life into what should b a major weapon in the Government’s anti-coronavirus arsenal.
Amid the talks between councils and Government about escalating the tier levels in England, the Government has faced increasing criticism that the NHS Test and Trace service, which was supposed to be the key to controlling the disease, is failing.
The system last week hit a record low with just 59.6 per cent of the contacts of people who tested positive for the disease being successfully contacted and told to self-isolate.
It prompted senior backbencher Sir Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the Liaison Committee, to join Labour in suggesting she be replaced.
But Mr Johnson’s official spokesman told reporters today: ‘I think we’ve certainly set out before that the Prime Minister continues to have full confidence in Dido Harding.
‘NHS Test and Trace has built a testing capacity of over 360,000-a-day from a starting point of 2,000-a-day in March. That is a bigger figure per head than in France, Germany, Italy and Spain – 1.1million have been contacted and told to self-isolate.
‘But as you’ve also heard the Prime Minister say, the system does need to improve especially in terms of the turnaround times for tests and we expect that to happen.’
He said staffing levels were being increased and that more automation would allow for more tests to be carried out ‘in order to drive improvement’.
This morning Health Secretary Matt Hancock (right, with Prue Leith) , Baroness Harding’s boss, defended her handling of the system
Sir Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the Liaison Committee, said that Lady Harding should be given a ‘well-earned break’ so she and others could ‘reflect on the lessons learned so far’
In a scathing attack on Test and trace yesterday, Sir Bernard said there was a ‘vacuum of leadership’ at the top which was ‘destroying cooperation and compliance’ by the public.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, he called for a change that was ‘visible and decisive’ with a senior military figure being put in charge.
‘There is a spaghetti of command and control at the top, which is incapable of coherent analysis, assessment, planning and delivery,’ he wrote.
‘The immediate priority is to fill the vacuum of leadership in Test and Trace, which is destroying cooperation and compliance.
‘Government harnessed the military to regain control in the foot and mouth crisis; the Prime Minister should follow that example today, by installing a single leader, a three or four star military commander with a reputation for handling complexity under stress.
Sir Bernard, who chairs the Liaison Committee of senior MPs which questions the Prime Minister twice a year, added that Lady Harding should be given a ‘well-earned break’ so she and others could ‘reflect on the lessons learned so far’.
But this morning Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Baroness Harding’s boss, defended her handling of the system.
Asked on BBC Breakfast if she is the right person for the job, Mr Hancock replied: ‘Yes, of course.’
He said: ‘I look at the whole system and how it’s operating. It’s really easy to pick at one individual data point, but you have got to look at the system as a whole.
‘This is a system that’s expanding fast and is absolutely critical to helping reduce the spread of the virus.’
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