Local campaigners against the privatisation and commercialisation of the NHS have backed a call by Lambeth council to allow the failing Covid test and trace scheme to be run at a grass-roots level.
Lambeth Keep Our NHS Public and other South London campaign groups say the so-called NHS Test and Trace is controlled by private companies and consultants.
Lambeth council last month agreed that the system could be better coordinated at a local level, with support from the London region director of public health and with London regional government pressing national government to devolve control and sufficient resources.
Lambeth Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) said more than £22 billion has been spent so far by private companies on test and trace – enough to fund all GP services in England for two years or to build 40 hospitals.
Lambeth council leader Jack Hopkins said: “It is clear the country still does not have an adequate test and trace system, and this has belatedly been acknowledged by the government with national NHS Test and Trace now passing us cases who have tested positive, but who they have not been able to reach.
“We’re pleased at this belated first step, but this still doesn’t go far enough.
“It again demonstrates a lack of urgency, that ministers are failing to listen and a failure of the centralised, top-down approach seen throughout this crisis that has resulted in harm in our communities.
“The only way to fully rectify the situation is for full control of contact tracing to be passed to local authorities and their public health partners.
“This must come with the funding and resources to support this work.
“We have pledged to work with our colleagues in public health, our local MPs and the Greater London Authority to put pressure on the government to make this happen. We also thank residents’ groups, including Lambeth Keep Our NHS Public, for supporting this call for action.”
Lambeth KONP is part of a national organisation, Keep Our NHS Public, and works with campaigners in six South London boroughs as SELSON – South East London Save our NHS.
Speaking on behalf of the groups, campaigner Gay Lee said: “Lambeth is doing a great job supplementing the national programme and is proving it can do it much better.
“It could do so much more if money was transferred from these private companies to Lambeth and other local authorities.
“Self-isolation is crucial, but about 20% of people who are asked to don’t comply — many can’t afford to.
“This makes testing pretty useless. This money would really help. Vaccinations won’t, on their own, solve the problems.
“We hope other London councils, including neighbouring Southwark, join Lambeth in putting pressure on the government to turn over running of test and trace to councils in the London region.”