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GMB Union boss calls for Dido Harding to resign from NHS Test and Trace

Following the news that a technical glitch caused 16,000 coronavirus cases to go unreported, the GMB Union has called for Test and Trace chair Dido Harding to quit

NHS Test and Trace boss Dido Harding should resign following coronavirus testing chaos, according to the GMB Union.

Earlier in October, Public Health England (PHE) identified a technical glitch that led to nearly 16,000 positive tests for Covid-19 coronavirus going unreported.

According to reports, the glitch was caused by a Microsoft Excel file getting too big to update, and the government received criticism for the mistake.

GMB Union general secretary Rehana Azam said Harding, who is in charge of the NHS Test and Trace programme, should resign due to the errors.

“The Prime Minister said he couldn’t think of anyone better than Harding to run the UK’s Test and Trace programme, and that shows a clear lack of judgement,” she said.

“It’s scary that one of the PrimeMminister’s cronies with a terrible track record has been put in temporary custody of our country’s public health.”

The Test and Trace programme, launched on 28 May and is supposed to help the UK navigate the life during the pandemic by tracking down and isolating the contacts of anybody who tests positive for Covid-19.

However, it then emerged that Public Health England did not complete a data protection impact assessment (DPIA) prior to launching, and government was forced into the admission following a legal challenge from privacy campaigners at the Open Rights Group (ORG), which threatened to take government to court unless it agreed to immediately conduct one.

The NHS Covid-19 app – a key part of the programme – was also delayed before it was launched in September 2020, some four months after it was originally promised.

IT experts have also expressed concern about data privacy in terms of future functionality of the app.

GMB Union secretary Rehana Azam said: “We’ve seen blunder after blunder under [Harding’s] leadership of Test and Trace and now she has further shown herself as a flunky for the Tory Party, voting against efforts in the House of Lords to ensure the social care workforce are considered when the government brings in its immigration policies.”

“This is not the independent public health expert the country and its staff need leading the scheme. There is now ample proof to show that the UK’s Test and Trace programme needs to be taken into public hands and led by experts and local authorities, not party-political cronies,” she said. “It’s time for Dido Harding to consider her positions.”

In August 2020, the government announced it would create a new organisation to merge Public Health England with the NHS Test and Trace programme. The new National Institute of Health Protection will be chaired by NHS Test and Trace executive chair Dido Harding.

Read more about NHS Test and Trace

  • According to Public Health England, a technical glitch led to 15,841 positive results between 25 September and 2 October not being included in reported coronavirus cases.
  • Momentum of first-day download blitz continues over first weekend for long-awaited contact-tracing app as users make 1.5 million venue check-ins.
  • Cross-party group of MPs say the ICO has failed to enforce data protection standards or hold the government to account over the unlawful Test and Trace programme.

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