Scottish health boards pilot contact tracing technology

17 May, 2020 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

New contact tracing technology will be tested by the NHS in Fife, Lanarkshire, and the Highlands from this week, the Scottish Government announced today.

The pilot, which is expected to last a fortnight, will allow health boards in those areas to test software used by contact tracers. It builds on existing contact tracing technology in place across the NHS and is intended to allow health boards to trace more contacts faster

This is the first step in moving towards an extended test, trace, isolate and support (TTIS) approach which will be used to keep transmission in communities low as the country moves out of lockdown, the Government said.

More than 600 additional staff from the NHS are ready to begin the work, as part of the process of recruiting up to 2000 staff. The software will be rolled out to all health boards by the end of May and then further enhanced during June.

The announcement comes after Jason Leitch, the National Clinical Director, revealed plans on Friday for a phased return to work for dental practices.

Jeane Freeman, the Health Secretary, said today: “Technology will be an important tool to help us move towards the test, trace, isolate and support approach and safely exit lockdown.   

“The software we are developing in Scotland is built on a tried and trusted platform and will allow us to carry out contact tracing on a much large scale than has been necessary until now. It will also focus on supporting public health teams identify outbreaks and reduce transmission in high risk groups and settings by making it easier for staff to collect and record information.

“The test, trace, isolate and support approach is about breaking the chain of transmission of the virus but it remains vital that alongside this people continue to follow physical distancing advice and practice good hand and cough hygiene.”

Covid-19 – Test, Trace, Isolate, Support is a public health intervention to identify cases of COVID-19, find the people they have been in close contact with, and then ask those close-contacts to self-isolate for 14 days to reduce the risk of the disease spreading.

The Scottish Government is also working to develop support for those who will be required to isolate, building on the support currently in place for those currently shielding from the virus.

The digital system will be built up from the end of May onwards. Not everyone who tests positive will be traced in the first instance, said the Government, but this service will gradually be built up in conjunction with health boards.

Tags: contact tracing / Covid-19 / Jeane Freeman

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