Thank you for contacting me about coronavirus testing, NHS Test and Trace, and outsourcing.
As part of an unprecedented response to this pandemic, my colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care have drawn on the expertise and resources of a number of public and private sector partners to support our NHS and social care sector. The Government has been guided by the science throughout, consulting with a range of experts in each field, and has made significant progress in testing capacity and analysis. Testing and NHS Test and Trace services are being provided through the NHS, and I am confident that these providers will be held to the highest standards to ensure that the best service possible is delivered.
I agree with the Prime Minister that it is absolutely crucial to continue working to improve the NHS Test and Trace system, speeding up turnaround times and growing capacity. Further, it is important that a higher percentage of close contacts of those with a positive test are contacted, and as quickly as possible, to enable them to self-isolate and to restrict the spread. As cases continue to spike, it is more crucial than ever that the NHS Test and Trace organisation functions as smoothly and effectively as possible, and I believe more can be done to ensure this. I will continue to monitor progress in this area closely.
The Department for Health and Social Care has outlined that granular data is being made available to specialist teams through local dashboards, and that this service has been expanded to provide more data for local areas. I understand that there have been some concerns about data sharing protocols, and I understand that Baroness Dido Harding, who is heading up the Government's test and trace programme as part of her work heading up the newly established National Institute for Health Protection, is working with local authorities and Public Health England to ensure that outbreak management teams have access to the information that they require. I will continue to closely monitor this issue.
I know that NHS Test and Trace has now reached more than two million people while the Covid-19 app has already been downloaded more than 19.5 million times. Nevertheless, these concerns should be taken seriously and I will monitor the situation closely in Parliament.