'Toxic' working conditions for Test and Protect staff, warns Labour

Test and Protect staff are working in “toxic” environments due to being overwhelmed by demands for the service, it has been claimed, as Covid-19 cases continue to be recorded at high levels.

Raising the concerns in a letter to health secretary Humza Yousaf Paul O’Kane called on the Scottish Government to hire additional staff to help deal with the increased workload and said employees were left “stressed and under pressure”.

The Scottish Labour MSP’s letter states: “There have been reports on the working conditions in NHS Test and Protect that have been described as “toxic” as staff are being overwhelmed due to the increase of infection rate and as such morale is at an all-time low.

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"We know that one of the most vital components to the limiting of further spread of the virus is through the work of the staff at NHS Test and Protect. These characterisations of NHS Test and Protect as a toxic workplace are therefore deeply concerning.”

Scottish Labour has warned about a 'toxic' work environment in Test and Protect

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On Sunday, 1,735 new cases of Covid-19 were reported by health boards, with a positivity rate of 9.8 per cent.

No new deaths were announced, with 46 people in intensive care and 511 in hospital.

Almost four million people have had one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and almost three million have had both doses.

However, Test and Protect was buckling under the pressure of such high case numbers, with more than 40 per cent of cases missing the World Health Organisation’s [WHO] target of being contacted by contact tracers within 72 hours.

Last week the system was working better with just 6.1 per cent of all cases missing the 72-hour deadline.

The WHO states that 80 per cent of all cases should be contacted within those first three days.

Commenting, Mr O’Kane said: “Test and Protect staff are working tirelessly to keep the virus under control, but the government’s failure to invest in the system has made this an impossible task.

“These are, by the government’s own admission, frontline workers. The stress they are being put under as they attempt to keep us all safe is utterly unacceptable.

“The SNP must urgently increase capacity and work with staff to ensure they have the resources and the support they need.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Contact tracers are a core part of our frontline pandemic response, and their resilience and adaptability in the wake of rising case numbers in recent weeks has been simply outstanding.

“We continue to work proactively with Health Boards, Directors of Public Health and with the National Contact Centre to tailor our contact tracing response to high case volumes. Additionally, we continue to support ongoing recruitment processes in local contact tracing teams to ensure that teams are capable of deploying workforce in line with agreed scheduling requirements.

“As part of our efforts to build a system which can respond to demand, we took steps earlier this year to work with two commercial partners to augment staffing within the National Contact Centre. This has helped the system to cope with the pressure it has been placed under in recent weeks. Last week the National Contact Centre was bolstered by the addition of 100 staff.”

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