London first as council takes over all local tracing

covid test site
Cllr Jim Dickson at the launch of the Covid testing site in Brockwell Park

Lambeth council is the first London borough to bring all Covid-19 contact tracing inhouse in a pilot scheme launched this week.

The council has recruited and trained new teams of tracers to work with residents to quickly and effectively track contacts who may have been exposed to the virus.

Under the new “Local 0” scheme, residents who have tested positive for Covid-19 will be contacted by a local contact tracer instead of the expensively outsourced “NHS” Test and Trace operation.

The council says that this will greatly reduce the amount of time required to track cases and provide a more efficient response to further outbreaks if they arise.

Lambeth council’s involvement in the Local 0 pilot comes after it carried out two separate enhanced testing programmes after single cases of the Covid-19 variant first detected in South Africa were found in West Norwood and Oval.

The approach included access to mobile testing units as well as Covid-19 test kits delivered door to door in the affected areas. 

More information on the council website.

Cllr Jim Dickson, council cabinet member for health and social care, said: “As a council we are pleased to be the first London council to be part of this pilot scheme.

“Our recent work around Operation Eagle in the South and North of the borough has shown how effective this local approach can be.

“We hope to build on this strong performance and our existing links with Public Health England, the NHS and partner agencies to identify and suppress any future outbreaks as they occur.”

Lambeth council in January urged the government to devolve contact tracing to town halls to fill gaps in the national system.

The council motion also called for better integration of test and trace with support services and for encouragement of better engagement with local GPs and volunteers.

The previous national contact tracing system could take between two and three days for positive cases to be passed from Public Health England to local teams.

The Local 0 scheme means those returning a positive test will now be called immediately by Lambeth’s own contact tracers.

The council anticipates that it will directly deal with up to five times the number of Covid-19 cases as a result of taking control of test and trace.

The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group (SAGE) has suggested that 80% of contacts need to be reached in order for the virus to be suppressed.

Cllr Dickson said: “We believe that early identification of person-to-person transmission is vital to reducing the number of Covid-19.

“Therefore, devolving these powers to local councils is something we fully support.

“Lambeth council and its partners have worked tirelessly to build up its specialist contact tracing teams to ensure we have the capacity to deal with a higher volume of cases.

“We have built a fantastic team of tracers and have refined our approach throughout the pandemic.

“We know our area and our residents best – which means we can react faster and effectively so we can save lives.

“We look forward to working with our counterparts in government to ensure we receive the correct resources to provide support for residents and make our communities safer.”