UK government advertises £2,000-a-day job to fix ‘failing’ test and trace

Health department seeks executive to turn around system that PM admits needs to ‘improve’

Coronavirus test
Swabs underway at a coronavirus drive-through testing station for NHS staff in Chessington
(Image credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The government has advertised for a director of operations to “implement improvements” to the coronavirus test-and-trace service that Boris Johnson yesterday admitted is failing to hit turnaround targets.

The recruitment ad says that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is seeking a temporary “VP of operations” with experience “in running call centres of 18,000”. The successful candidate will have “experience (and evidence) of turning around failing call centres” and “examples of quick wins”, says the listing, which offers pay of up to £2,000 a day.

The advert was posted on the website of recruitment company Quast but has since been taken down. An employee at Quast told The Guardian that they had only realised the “nature and sensitivity of the role” after getting inquiries about the job, the application deadline for which was today.

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The DHSC “confirmed that it was actively recruiting for the role, but added that the advert would be redrafted”, the newspaper reports.

As latest data reveals the worst performance yet by NHS Test and Trace, the prime minister said yesterday that he shares “people’s frustrations” with the £12bn system. Speaking during a Downing Street briefing, Johnson said that service was “helping a bit” but that the government must “improve it”.

When NHS Test and Trace was launched, at the end of May, the PM promised that by the end of the following month, the results of all in-person tests would be back within 24 hours.

But “the system is continuing to fail on two key measures”, says HuffPost. Figures for the week ending 14 October show that just 15% of people who were tested for Covid received their results within 24 hours, down from 33% the week before.

And crucially for any candidate who snags the role advertised by the DHSC, the proportion of close contacts of positive cases who were reached also hit an all-time low, at 59.6%, down from 63% in the previous week.

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