National Covid report includes lessons learnt in BwD

Published Tuesday 12 October 2021 at 13:27

A national report into the lessons learned during the Covid pandemic includes observations from Blackburn with Darwen’s Director of Public Health Prof Dominic Harrison.

Published today, the ‘Coronavirus: Lessons Learnt to Date’ joint report from the House of Commons’ Science & Technology Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee is a wide-ranging review of the public sector response to the pandemic.

Prof Harrison contributed to the review in late 2020. Giving evidence to the government committee, he highlighted Blackburn with Darwen’s perspectives on a wide range of Covid-related issues.

Prof Harrison is quoted in the final report on the importance of adequate financial support to encourage people to self-isolate when they have Covid or are identified as close-contacts – especially people on low incomes.

His comments on the importance of localising the tracing element of the national Test & Trace system are also included in the report.

Prof Dominic Harrison said:

I broadly welcome and agree with the findings of this important national report. It is now critical that the government responds to the evidence and addresses the weaknesses identified in our national Covid response as we move into a higher risk period over the winter.

In my evidence to the committee I highlighted two key issues: the importance of financial support for frontline workers on low income, or in precarious employment, who need more financial support in order to properly self-isolate.

I was also keen to highlight the need to give local authorities greater control and more funding for Test & Trace processes, as councils have better local knowledge and relationships with their local communities.

Blackburn with Darwen was among the first councils in England to launch its own locally supported contact tracing system to follow up calls and door-knocks to residents who did not answer the calls from the national Test & Trace system.

Frankly, we were more effective and efficient at delivering Test & Trace than the private sector companies commissioned by central government, with a better track record of making contact with positive Covid cases.

I am pleased to say that some progress has now been made on this issue with a more blended national/local model now in place in most Local Authority areas. However, more commitment is required from central government to make this sustainable.

Following the report’s publication, Prof Harrison is also supporting the Association of Directors of Public Health’s call for sustainable funding for local authority public health services.

Prof Harrison added:

We have all paid a very high price, both in terms of lives and money for underfunding the services we needed to keep communities and the economy resilient to shocks like the Coronavirus pandemic. We now need to act on the evidence and lessons learned that are highlighted in this important national report.

The ‘Coronavirus: Lessons Learnt to Date’ report is available on the UK Parliament website.

Coun Mohammed Khan CBE, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, added:

Throughout the pandemic, Dom has been a trusted and respected voice both locally and nationally. He has fought the borough’s corner in many debates with central government and I’m pleased that some of the recommendations he made as part of the review have been documented in the final report.

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