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Locally supported contact tracing for Covid-19

11 September 2020

Norfolk County Council has announced that it is to provide a new locally supported contact tracing service to ensure more local input and knowledge into this important activity. Public Health England has approved this new way of working to enhance the current service carried out by NHS Test and Trace.

This locally delivered service will step in when NHS Test and Trace teams cannot contact new cases within 24 hours. Specially trained local call handlers from Norfolk County Council will make further attempts to contact cases, including checking local information to clarify and improve data details. The new service then extends out to ground teams at all of the district councils who can further enhance the chances of engaging with local people. This is a great example of collaborative working across our public services.

Tom McCabe, Head of Paid Service said:

“Our commitment to support locally based contact tracing is the right thing to do to reach out to and protect our communities and businesses. Should we experience further outbreaks, we will be in a better position to prioritise testing.”

Andrew Proctor, Leader of Norfolk County Council and Chair of the Norfolk Covid-19 Engagement Board said:

“Speed is of the essence when dealing with a virus, so increasing the performance of contact tracing should mean that more cases are contacted, given advice and support to self-isolate.

“Being proactive will also have a positive effect on the Norfolk economy – quickly identifying and containing the spread of the virus should allow businesses to return to operation as quickly as possible.”

Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk County Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “Having the information ourselves will help us identify trends and sharing information at an earlier stage will most definitely speed up the tracing process, and give us early flags around what could become an outbreak.”

At present, the complex process of contact tracing is done entirely by Public Health England from their regional team, but more of the effort will move to the local authority.

All data will be entered into a local outbreak management database that will allow contact tracers to identify links between referrals and any outbreaks in Norfolk.

In addition, where calls are successful, data on contacts will be uploaded into the national Contact Tracing Administration Service database. This will improve NHS Test and Trace data on contact tracing and ensure that contacts will be followed up in the normal way by NHS Test and Trace.

Advice for the contact tracing team will be available from a public health officer, who will be available to answer queries, offer advice and, if required, provide access to a public health senior consultant – who has health protection training.

Funding will come from the Government’s Local Outbreak Control Plan allocation for Norfolk, which totals £3.7m.

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