Sheffield protests call for Serco to be stripped of £100m NHS test and trace contract

Protesters have called for the Government’s NHS Test and Trace coronavirus tracking system to be brought back into public control after concerns were raised that the private company which was awarded the contract was not up to the job.

By Dan Hayes
Tuesday, 18th August 2020, 5:31 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th August 2020, 5:37 pm

The protest, which was held outside Sheffield Town Hall on Tuesday and took place alongside similar protests across England, came just five days before Serco’s initial contract to manage the system expires, a contract which has already earned the outsourcing firm more than £100 million.

But the organisers - national anti-privatisation campaigners We Own It - are demanding that ‘not a penny more’ be given to Serco and called for the money instead to be allocated to local public health protection teams to manage the system.

The Sheffield protest was organised by NHS campaigners Sheffield Save Our NHS, whose secretary Ruth Milsom said Serco were taking the money and not doing the job.

Protesters gathered outside Sheffield Town Hall on Tuesday 18 August over outsourcing giant Serco's continued involvement in England's test, track and trace programme.

She said: “At the moment Serco are reaching just over 50 per cent of the contacts of Covid positive people - but we need to be up into the high 80s or 90 per cent if we are to get on top of the virus.

“They are a shareholder company that is more interested in their own profits than actually doing the job well and they have got a track record of data breaches.

Baroness Dido Harding who will be running the next phase of it used to run TalkTalk at a time when they had a huge data breach and over 100,000 people’s personal data was stolen.

“We are saying Serco are just not good enough and these private companies should not be let loose on a national system that is failing.”

Protesters gathered outside Sheffield Town Hall on Tuesday 18 August over outsourcing giant Serco’s continued involvement in England’s test, track and trace programme. Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake addresses the crowd.

Ruth added that they believed local teams that understood their own communities and could support them with self-isolation were far better placed to deliver and effective test, track and trace system.

A Serco spokesperson said: “Serco has played an important part in helping to reach hundreds of thousands of people who might otherwise have passed on the virus.

“Our team of call handlers has been 93 per cent successful in persuading people to isolate where we are able to have conversations.”

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Protesters gathered outside Sheffield Town Hall on Tuesday 18 August over outsourcing giant Serco's continued involvement in England's test, track and trace programme.