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DHSC response to misleading Guardian coverage on contact tracers

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Guardian has today published claims about the recruitment process and training of contact tracers.

Contact tracers are crucial to the government’s response to the worst pandemic in a hundred years. The test and trace team will work to reduce risk by reaching those who have been in close contact with someone who has developed coronavirus.

All applicants are interviewed through a combination of both online assessments and telephone screening. In addition all applicants have to provide DBS and Right to Work information.

Staff are trained on a vast range of areas: data security; customer service; safeguarding vulnerable children and adults; operating procedures; and when to escalate issues they may spot in their work safeguarding the community among other matters.

Only applicants that have passed all the training modules and technical tests are allowed to move onto the next stage and start work.

The Department of Health and Social Care's full response to the main claims reported by the Guardian can be found below:

CLAIM: One said that the session was beset with technical difficulties and that it was clear that many people did not understand the role at the end of the session, but were expected to start work the next day.

Response: Contact tracers have been trained ahead of contact tracing being rolled out so they are not yet working with the public – therefore it is not the case that any of them have been expected to start work without appropriate training for the role.

All staff undertake a wide range of training, designed by PHE health protection experts, and all training must be completed before they begin contact tracing.  

Only applicants that have passed all the training modules and technical tests are allowed to move onto the next stage and start work.

Any contact tracing which requires clinical expertise will be carried out by staff who have received clinical or public health training and have worked in public health or healthcare before, some for many years.

CLAIM: They said the training they received was shambolic, with nearly 100 people being trained remotely by one person.  

Response:  In line with the Government's advice on social distancing and working from home, all of Sitel’s recruitment, assessment, training and management are conducted virtually.

Online training sessions are delivered through trainers with classroom assistants who provide additional support. There is also a helpline which all applicants can use for any questions or technical issues.

CLAIM: One said a trainer was asked how contact tracers should respond when speaking to someone whose loved one had died from coronavirus and he told the trainees to look at YouTube videos about how to talk to bereaved people.

RESPONSE: This is not in line with our training protocols and so have asked this to be looked at further. Staff are trained for the tasks they need to carry out and trainers would provide appropriate advice on how to respond when speaking to bereaved people.

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