Contact tracing call centre to tackle coronavirus in Essex

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A contact tracing service is to be set up in Essex led by officials from Essex County Council (ECC) and operated by third party call handlers.

As part of Public Health England’s national oversight plans, local authorities are being asked to support and set up contact tracing services within their respective local areas.

ECC is proposing to use Provide CIC, a community interest company that provides a broad range of health and social care services in the community, to deliver the service in Essex and Southend through a dedicated call handling service.

Starting with an initial group of 25 tracers, the system could eventually grow to having as many as 50 at a cost of £3.8million.

It is also anticipated that Provide CIC will work with subcontractors including Anglian Community Enterprises (ACE) which delivers the NHS Health Checks Service on behalf of the council and also with Phoenix Futures, Open Road and Peabody, which deliver specialist support to vulnerable groups including rough sleepers and those with alcohol and substance misuse issues on behalf of the council.

Officers are working to develop an outbreak control plan for Essex and Southend, which will also set up governance for the contact tracing service.

The service will deal with cases referred to it by Public Health England which will provide the council with information twice daily in relation to new cases in Essex where help is needed to trace people.

ECC’s technology services is being commissioned to create and install new technology that will allow for data sharing from a single platform.

The money will come from a £5.78million grant allocated from government to ECC to be ring fenced and used solely to fund the contact tracing service.

A statement as part of an ECC decision notice added: “Commissioners have been in dialogue with Provide CIC in relation to the delivery of the service.

“Provide CIC are currently commissioned by the council to deliver the integrated Essex Sexual Health Service and the newly formed Essex Welfare Service and therefore are ideally placed to deliver the call handling service.

“They also have a number of suitably experienced staff who can deliver more specialist support for the purpose of contact tracing investigations.

“It is intended that the council will initially commission Provide CIC to provide 25 staff including call handlers and specialist staff.

“This does not represent a full capacity service which could be 50 staff at an annual cost to the council of £3.8million.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter