The government has acknowledged that staff on the NHS Test and Trace programme launched today have experienced issues logging in to its computer system.
The initiative launched today, with 25,000 tracers having been hired to identify and track down people who may have been exposed to coronavirus through contact with others.
But, according to a report in The Independent, a number of staff that began work as contract tracers this morning have found themselves unable to log in to the programme’s computer system.
One told the newspaper that they were presented with a screen indicating that the system had encountered a “critical incident”. Another said that they were scheduled to work a four-hour shift from 8am to midday but that, as of 11.30am, they and 14 other colleagues had been unable to access the system.
The Department of Health and Social Care has denied that the system has crashed, but acknowledged that some workers have experienced difficulties this morning.
“As with all large-scale operations, some staff initially encountered issues logging on to their systems. These issues are rapidly being resolved,” it said. “The wider NHS Test and Trace Service is up and running. The public can access the live site [at] contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk.”
Several MPs have reported being told by Dido Harding – the former TalkTalk boss appointed by the government to lead Test and Trace – that the programme will not be running at full capacity for another month.
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw tweeted: “Dido Harding just told me on an MPs’ conference call that Test, Trace and Isolate won’t be fully operational at local level till the end of June. Not sure where that leaves [Boris] Johnson’s promise of a fully operational ‘world beating’ system by Monday.”
The contact-tracing app developed by NHSX is one element of the tracking programme that is yet to launch. It was originally scheduled to have been rolled out nationwide in mid-May, but this timeline has been shifted back and the launch is now not expected any sooner than sometime “in the coming weeks”.
A few weeks ago, the UK’s chief scientific adviser cited the app as a central element of a tracing programme that would increasingly “do the heavy lifting” of controlling the coronavirus outbreak.
But the software has more recently been characterised by several senior officials and politicians as a “cherry on top” of the manual tracing programme.