Coronavirus: Contact tracer bemoans 'hopeless' scheme making it hard to do her job

May 28, 2020

Fiona, not her real name, is a semi-retired GP nurse from Yorkshire and is now part of the government's test and trace programme. 

Her role as a tier two contact tracer, which requires a clinical background, sees her try to map out possible incidents where COVID-19 may have been passed on from an infected person.

Although the test and trace scheme to help the UK emerge from its coronavirus lockdown was originally due to launch next week, Fiona was emailed to say it had been moved forward.

With error messages having stifled her attempts to start her new role, Fiona spoke to Sky News about her issues with the launch.

The website shouldn't crash, it just shouldn't.

I'm actually not booked-in to work until tomorrow, but after I got the email late last night telling me to log in and set up a password... I've logged on today and it's not working.

My personal opinion is that they have rushed it forward to try and take Dominic Cummings off the main headlines and they are not ready, they are absolutely not ready.

I should imagine if I called the help number, it would be chocka.

When I was training last week, I was on hold for hours trying to get through to someone.

Sometimes when you'd call they would then say I needed to call a different line to get help. I felt bad because I was booked on for three four-hour shifts with basically nothing to do.

I've logged on today on my day off to make up for that in a way. I've been sat here all morning trying to find out what's wrong and running the troubleshooter that comes up.

Obviously the website [to set up your password] has crashed. It's nothing to do with me in other words.

It's been quite a complex procedure to get all this software downloaded directly on to your computer.

And to set it all up, and to understand the information.

And I still don't have a team leader who I should address questions to. I feel frustrated.

Last week, when I was calling for help and did get through finally to someone with my questions, they said: "We don't really know, it's all so new."

It's been hopeless and I appreciate it's been rushed through - I think they should have waited and got it right.

I'm angry people keep criticising the NHS over this - it's Public Health England, a government department since 2012.

It's annoyed me. In some ways I wish I hadn't bothered. It doesn't sit right for me that I had three paid shifts where I really didn't do anything.

There's only so many times you can re-read the training manual, which is what we were asked to do last week.

I just wish it worked.

We also don't have the app working, which is half the job - especially if people have been on public transport.

After this fiasco with the Cummings saga, I have got to ask people to stay at home and not leave their home for any reason - that's the official script.

What am I going to say to them? They are going to laugh in my face.

What can I say if they say: "Oh, I'm going to drive to my mum's and will stay in their mobile home in the drive."

I don't feel proud of it at all.

This morning, I saw when Kay Burley was interviewing Matt Hancock about if this has been moved forward as a distraction. I was absolutely disgusted when he laughed.

It was very obviously a very valid point and I haven't heard any of them [in government] answer it.

As I say, I feel less proud and less confident in what I am doing.

As told to Sanya Burgess, news reporter

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A Department of Health spokesman has denied the system has crashed but acknowledged there had been issues.

They said: "The system has not crashed. Anyone in the country can log on and book a test if they have symptoms and we have tracers logged on to do their vital work to help stop the spread of coronavirus and save lives.

"As with all large scale operations of this kind, some staff did initially encounter issues logging on to their systems and these are rapidly being resolved."

Next week from Monday to Thursday, Dermot Murnaghan will be hosting After the Pandemic: Our New World - a series of special live programmes about what our world will be like once the pandemic is over.

We'll be joined by some of the biggest names from the worlds of culture, politics, economics, science and technology. And you can take part too.

If you'd like to be in our virtual audience - from your own home - and put questions to the experts, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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