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Scandal-hit Serco ‘utterly unfit’ to run Covid-19 contact tracing system

TORY plans to use scandal-hit privateers to run NHS “test-and-trace” call centres emerged today, sparking outrage.

Outsourcing giant Serco and notorious security firm G4S are being lined up to do the bulk of the contact-tracing work, recruiting 15,000 call-centre staff.

The newly recruited workers will be given just a day’s training in the principles of contact tracing, the Times reported.

Testing and tracing – keeping track of those who have been in contact with infected people – is believed to be vital to easing the lockdown and preventing a second wave of coronavirus. 

But anti-privatisation campaigners criticised the decision to contract out such work to Serco, branding the firm “utterly unfit” to become involved in the NHS. 

Last year, Serco was fined nearly £23 million as part of a settlement with the Serious Fraud Office over an electronic tagging contract with the Ministry of Justice. Both Serco and G4S were accused of charging the government for electronically monitoring people who were either dead, in jail or had left the country.

Serco has also been embroiled in a number of other scandals, including falsifying NHS records to meet targets at a Cornwall out-of-hours GP surgery. 

Campaign group We Own It director Cat Hobbs said that it was “beyond belief” that the firms were in line for the contracts. 

“Whether it is falsifying NHS data or staffing breast-cancer screening hotlines with staff who’ve only had an hour’s training, Serco’s track record shows that it is utterly unfit to play any role in our NHS.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth also criticised the plans, arguing that the public will not want to see the system “in the hands of private companies seeking to make a profit.”

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