AROUND one-third of people who should be picked up by the NHS Test and Trace system in Cheshire are not being reached, new figures suggest.

Data from the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) shows that between May 28 and September 9, 66 per cent of close contacts who were flagged up by people with positive Covid-19 test results in Cheshire West – including Northwich and Winsford – were reached by contact tracers.

That percentage rises to 69 per cent in Cheshire East, which includes Middlewich, Knutsford and Wilmslow.

Saffron Cordery, chief executive of NHS Providers, says this falls ‘well short’ of the 80 per cent target set by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

She said: “[NHS] Trust leaders are increasingly concerned with the current testing shortages impacting on NHS service recovery and winter preparations due to staff and their family members being unable to access a test.

“Additionally, with the number of positive Covid-19 cases increasing, but a reduction in the proportion being contact traced, we are looking at renewed pressure on the NHS.”

Between May 28 and September 9, 725 people in Cheshire West and 670 in Cheshire East were transferred to NHS Test and Trace after testing positive for Covid-19.

They would have been urged to give details for anyone they were in close contact with in the 48 hours before their symptoms started by the service, and those people would be dealt with either through a call centre or online.

That led to 1,387 close contacts being flagged up in Cheshire West, but 471 people were not reached by the service.

Meanwhile in Cheshire East, 1,392 close contacts were flagged up, but 428 people were not reached by contact tracers.

The DHSC says a close contact is not reached when there is no response to text, email or call reminders, or when their communication details were not available.

Contact tracers would then urge close contacts to self-isolate for 14 days – meaning anyone who is not reached could potentially spread Covid-19 if they picked up the virus from the person who tested positive.

Across England, 64 per cent of these contacts who were flagged up to NHS Test and Trace were not reached.

Knutsford Guardian:

Baroness Dido Harding. Image: PA

Baroness Dido Harding, who heads up the NHS Test and Trace service, admitted last week that demand for tests was outstripping capacity but denied claims that the system was ‘failing’.

She suggested around a quarter of those coming forward for a test did not have symptoms.

Under new rules, from September 28 people in England will legally have to self-isolate for 14 days if they test positive for coronavirus, or they are instructed to do by NHS Test and Trace.

Fines for non-compliance will start at £1,000, rising to £10,000 for repeat offenders, while people on benefits will be eligible for a one-off support payment of £500 if they face a loss of earnings as a result of having to quarantine.