Open Letter to Local MP's from West Cornwall HealthWatch
FAO Derek Thomas MP for St Ives and George Eustice MP for Camborne and Redruth
23rd September 2020
Dear Derek and George
We are writing to you as the two MPs responsible for the area we cover, as follows: West Cornwall HealthWatch welcomes the government’s commitment to boosting the test and trace system with an additional investment of £100bn. However, we have grave concerns about where the money is to be targeted and also question whether setting a numerical target for the daily administration of tests is a useful goal for this investment. Our main concerns are threefold:
• Firstly, we believe that the government would do better to invest a large proportion of that £100bn in local infrastructure. This would support connected networks of local services to deliver test and trace rather than commissioning a national private sector provider. Locally, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Local Authorities would be far better placed to coordinate local partners to deliver test and trace, were they given the resources to do so. Such a local service would have the advantage of working through existing community networks and utilising knowledge, which would improve efficiency as well as inspiring greater public trust. Local authorities are also used to working together through regional and national networks.
• Secondly, we understand that achieving these numbers would require new tests to be developed, and have deep concerns about designing and commissioning a service based on technologies that do not already exist. We believe that supporting and resourcing local infrastructure to enable it to respond effectively and flexibly is a much more efficient mechanism for risk management in a changing environment.
• Thirdly, no test can or will be 100% accurate. There is clear evidence that mass testing amplifies any inaccuracies in the test being used, particularly in areas where infection is at a low level. This would create anxieties and potentially lead to restrictions on people who are not infectious, whilst providing a false sense of security to people who may continue spreading the infection. This is likely to further undermine public trust in the testing system. It is therefore important for the government to improve the clarity and quality of information about testing and the requirement for re-testing, rather than fixating on numerical targets. This too is best delivered locally, by trusted agencies.
Regarding these concerns we ask you to challenge your government’s strategy of ploughing public money into ‘untested’ private systems and instead advocate investment in well tried and bedded down local public health systems, enabling the most efficient and effective responses to Covid-19.
Written by J Williams and K Maguire on behalf of the full Committee of West Cornwall HealthWatch.
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