Test and trace boss accused of ‘not knowing’ or covering up key statistics

Dido Harding is questioned by Jeremy Hunt and the Health and Social Care Committee. Photograph: Parl

Dido Harding is questioned by Jeremy Hunt and the Health and Social Care Committee. Photograph: Parliament TV. - Credit: Archant

The head of the government's test and trace programme has unimpressed at the health and social care committee as she was accused of not knowing the statistics behind her own programme, and even covering them up.

Throughout of her appearance in the Commons committee Dido Harding refused to give definitive numbers for the new government scheme.

She claimed following concerns from the chair of the UK statistics authority that they were still 'validating' the data to make sure 'it is good enough'.

But an unimpressed committee chair Jeremy Hunt suggested she was not giving details because it was 'not very good'.

'Do you understand the counter argument that is by not sharing data with us very basic data - like how many people have been contacted in 24 hours - might actually destroy confidence in it, because people will think the reason the data isn't being shared is because it's not very good?'

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Baroness Harding laughed as she reminded the chair that the programme was 'only six days old'.

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She said until the data is validated she could only give a 'flavour' of the first few days of the programme.

Harding told the committee: 'This is a service that is only six days old, and building trust in NHS Test and Trace is going to be absolutely critical.

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'So, we need to make sure that any data that we share is accurate and validated.'

She suggested the fact contact tracers 'were not busy' was because a proportion were using online services.

When asked about how many tests were being turned around within 24 hours, she said she could only give 'broad averages', pointing to a 90% success figure for 48 hours. Harding said she 'did not have' statistics for the one-day turnaround. Hunt responded: 'What no-one wants to tell us is the overall number of tests that come back within 24 hours. You must know that, that just can't be right! You're saying you don't actually know how many tests come back within 24 hours?'

Harding insisted she did know - but the figures just had not been validated.

Hunt called for Harding to provide the statistics in the next week, but she resisted giving firm assurances on providing all the answers.

'I'm sorry to be boring - provided the quality of the data is good enough. What I don't want to do - with a service that is only six days old - is launch with data that is not good enough'.

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