NHS Track and Trace worker reveals bored staff spend all day chatting about Netflix and holidays

Idle Track and Trace workers employed to help the country battle the coronavirus pandemic are spending their work hours chatting about Netflix, dental treatments and where they plan to go on holiday, a whistle-blower has claimed.

Shocking screenshots have revealed how bored workers on the government’s ‘vital’ Track and Trace scheme are using massive online group chats to talk about their favourite chefs and TV shows.

In the screenshots, one team leader is even seen discussing his dream to visit Disneyland. 

And in yet another blow to the government’s much-maligned Track and Trace scheme, the frustrated former tracer claimed he had not tracked a single case despite working there for a month.

That’s despite claims by Health Secretary Matt Hancock that during its first week of operation, the track and trace system identified more than 31,000 people in England who had been in close contact with individuals infected with the virus.  

The Department of Health and Social Care, has today defended the scheme which it says consists of 27,000 ‘fully trained’ contact tracers and has already advised 87,000 people to self-isolate.

Addressing the idleness claims, the department said rates of infection are relatively low and that it is ‘entirely right that some call handlers have spare capacity’.

Idle Track and Trace workers employed to help the country battle the coronavirus pandemic are spending their work hours chatting about Netflix, dental treatments and where they plan to go on holiday, a whistle-blower has claimed. Pictured: An computer generated image of what the now cancelled Track and Trace app was going to look like

Shocking screenshots (pictured) have revealed how bored workers on the government's 'vital' Track and Trace scheme are using massive online group chats to talk about their favourite chefs and TV shows

In the screenshots, one team leader is even seen discussing his dream to visit Disneyland

Shocking screenshots  (pictured) have revealed how bored workers on the government’s ‘vital’ Track and Trace scheme are using massive online group chats to talk about their favourite chefs and TV shows

Conversations included chats about the dentists and favourite TV chefs

Another included a chat about the now closed sports shop JJB Sports

Conversations included chats about the dentists and favourite TV chefs, while another included a chat about the now closed sports shop JJB Sports

Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) claims that during its first week of operation, the track and trace system identified more than 31,000 people in England who had been in close contact with individuals infected with the virus

Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) claims that during its first week of operation, the track and trace system identified more than 31,000 people in England who had been in close contact with individuals infected with the virus

Meanwhile, the whistle-blower claims that rather than trace those who may have come into contact with carriers of the virus, he was instead thrown into a massive online chat room with 2,000 others.

And he claimed the chats quickly descended into inane conversations.

Rules specifically state that the chat rooms are to be used for work purposes only.

But in the screenshots, one bored worker is seen to say: ‘They are only doing start of root canal to get me out of pain and get rid of infection but the rest I have to wait for.’

One replied: ‘I have a big smile and only two teeth left in front…U know like rabbits*.I can easily open my beer cans.’

Another topic said: ‘I have a very broad Yorkshire accent I have been told,’ to which another replied: ‘You’re all so northern.’

The chat then went onto favourite nightclubs, before a team leader began to talk about how they couldn’t wait to visit Disney. 

Last week, the government announced it is to mothball its much-anticipated app for the track and trace scheme – seen as a ‘vital’ part of the government’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic as lockdown restrictions are lifted. 

The decision came as Health secretary Matt Hancock said the technology wouldn’t work on millions of phones.

In the meantime, human phone track and tracers have been working behind the scenes to find those who could spread the virus.

But the whistle-blower, from London, claims little work is being done among track and trace team he worked in, which he believes covered the Birmingham area – home to more than one million people and at one point the country’s coronavirus epicentre.

Releasing the screenshots, he said he was first employed on the scheme on May 17 after applying a day prior through job website Indeed.

But he claims that in a month he hasn’t had to track a single case.

And he claims he was earning more than £10 an hour to simply ‘sit in front of a computer screen doing nothing’. 

Last week, the government announced it is to mothball its much-anticipated app for the track and trace scheme - seen as a 'vital' part of the government's fight against the coronavirus pandemic as lockdown restrictions are lifted. Pictured: An NHS Health Service employee shows a smartphone displaying the Track and Trace App

Last week, the government announced it is to mothball its much-anticipated app for the track and trace scheme – seen as a ‘vital’ part of the government’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic as lockdown restrictions are lifted. Pictured: An NHS Health Service employee shows a smartphone displaying the Track and Trace App

These are some of the screengrabs from the NHS Track and Trace App which has now been dropped by the government

Members of the public who download the app are asked to allow Bluetooth and push notifications

These are some of the screengrabs from the NHS Track and Trace App which has now been dropped by the government

He said: ‘I want to let everyone know about what’s going on. This system is so broken on so many fundamental levels.

‘You’re in a chat room and someone wants to go to Disney. That’s the moderator – the team leader. He’s saying he really wants to go to Disney.

‘People talk about Netflix, where they want to go on holiday. There are Xbox groups, planned nights out. You name it.

‘I’m not the workplace police but I think the fact conversations have devolved to team leaders talking about how they want to go to Disney is evidence of how busy they are.’

And he added: ‘All Boris has done has hired thousands of people so he can say ‘we have this’ but you have got thousands of people doing nothing.

‘I wanted to be a part of it because I wanted to help. Now I’m looking for a new job.’

The idea of the scheme is that when someone is handed their positive Covid-19 test results they are asked who they have been in contact with and asked to provide phone numbers and emails.

Potentially infected people are sent a text message or email warning them to self isolate, but if they don’t respond to that, track and trace operatives try and hunt them down by phone.

Track and tracers are given leads through a database and are then expected to continue to call people until they get hold of them and warn them they have been in contact with an infected person.

The idea of the scheme is that when someone is handed their positive Covid-19 test results they are asked who they have been in contact with and asked to provide phone numbers and emails. Potentially infected people are sent a text message or email warning them to self isolate

The idea of the scheme is that when someone is handed their positive Covid-19 test results they are asked who they have been in contact with and asked to provide phone numbers and emails. Potentially infected people are sent a text message or email warning them to self isolate

Track and tracers are given leads through a database and are then expected to continue to call people until they get hold of them and warn them they have been in contact with an infected person

Track and tracers are given leads through a database and are then expected to continue to call people until they get hold of them and warn them they have been in contact with an infected person

It was hoped the system would mean lockdown ended sooner by reducing the spread of the virus. 

Matt Hancock claimed that during its first week of operation, England’s Covid-19 track and trace system identified more than 31,000 people who had been in close contact with individuals infected with the virus, 85 per cent of which were instructed to self-isolate.

The 31,000 close contacts were traced from 8,000 people who had tested positive.

Two thirds of those who had contracted coronavirus provided details of who they had been in contact with to the track and trace team for the period May 28 to June 3.

Defending the Track and Trace scheme, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said: ‘The new NHS Test and Trace service is up and running and is helping save lives. In its first fortnight, tens of thousands of people engaged with the Test and Trace service by taking a test, sharing their contacts and following the advice to self-isolate.

‘We have over 27,000 contact tracers in place, who have all been fully trained and are supported in their work by public health experts.

‘With rates of infection relatively low it is entirely right that some call handlers have spare capacity.’

It comes as today Boris Johnson faced a furious backlash today as he claimed no country has a working coronavirus tracing app – only to be told that 12million people have already downloaded Germany’s version.

The PM dismissed criticism over the failed NHS software, which was initially billed a crucial for controlling the disease before being humiliatingly abandoned last week.  

Boris Johnson

Keir Starmer

Boris Johnson (left) insisted at PMQs this afternoon that no other country had a ‘functional’ app, after Sir Keir Starmer (right) warned that one was critical for the test and trace system

Ministers were forced to admit that it failed to work on almost all iPhones, and are now focusing on a ‘hybrid’ based on a model built by Apple and Google.

Mr Johnson insisted at PMQs this afternoon that no other country had a ‘functional’ app, after Sir Keir Starmer warned that one was critical for the test and trace system – especially with lockdown easing.

But Sir Keir shot back: ‘Germany – 12million downloads… I checked that overnight.’

During brutal clashes in the Commons, Mr Johnson said the NHS Test and Trace team had so far contacted 87,000 people.

The Labour leader said: ‘Yesterday the Government announced the next stage of easing lockdown restrictions. If that plan is to work, and we want it to work, we need an effective track, trace and isolate system…

‘The latest track, trace and isolate figures show that just over 10,000 people with Covid-19 were reached and asked to provide contact details. 

The app developed by the NHS didn't work for people using Apple iPhones and effectively went into sleep mode, failing to pick up nearby devices using Bluetooth (stock image)

The app developed by the NHS didn’t work for people using Apple iPhones and effectively went into sleep mode, failing to pick up nearby devices using Bluetooth (stock image)

‘I do recognise the hard work that has gone into this, but if two-thirds of those with Covid-19 are not being reached and asked to provide contact details, there’s a big problem, isn’t there?’

But Mr Johnson shot back that Sir Keir’s ‘prognostication of gloom’ on test and trace had been proved wrong.

He said the UK had a very effective ‘cluster-busting’ operation to crack down on any local outbreaks.

‘Contrary to his prognostications of gloom, it has got up and running, I think, much faster than the doubters expected,’ he said,

‘What NHS Test and Trace is doing is contacting the vast majority of those who test positive and their own contacts and getting them to self-isolate, and it is a formidable achievement.’

Sir Keir Starmer pressed Mr Johnson on whether the contact tracing app was critical or not in combating the virus.  

He said: ‘Up until last week, the Government maintained that the app was critical, another of their slides (at the daily briefing).

‘But at the weekend (Matt Hancock) downplayed the app, saying it was only ever additional support. So which is it – critical or not?’

Mr Johnson responded: ‘I wonder whether (Sir Keir) can name a single country in the world that has a functional contact tracing app? Because there isn’t one.’

Sir Keir Starmer, when asked to name a country which has a functional contact tracing app, replied: ‘Germany – 12 million downloads. I checked that overnight.’

The Labour leader said other countries are ahead of the UK, asking: ‘When are we going to have a working app?’

Mr Johnson pushed on, saying Sir Keir was ‘completely wrong’.

‘No country in the world has a working contact tracing app and I’ve always been clear, we’ve always been clear, that the app would be the icing on the cake,’ he said.

‘If we can get it to work it’ll be a fine thing but there isn’t one anywhere in the world so far.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk

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