The £37billion NHS Test and Trace service has been an 'eye-wateringly expensive' failure, a damning report by MPs claims.
It has failed to break chains of Covid transmission, prevent lockdowns or enable people to return to a more normal way of life.
The organisation, previously led by former TalkTalk boss Baroness Harding, also had 'muddled' objectives, the Public Accounts Committee said.
Spending on Test and Trace is equal to nearly a fifth of the 2020/21 NHS England budget.
Just 45 per cent of testing capacity was used between November 2020 and April 2021, and at times as few as 11 per cent of contact centre staff were being utilised.
Only 96million of 691million lateral flow tests it distributed were registered. And it 'is not clear what benefit the remaining 595million tests have secured'.
The programme was championed by the then Health Secretary Matt Hancock, whilst Prime Minister Boris Johnson described it as 'world-beating'.
The £37billion NHS Test and Trace service has been an 'eye-wateringly expensive' failure, a damning report by MPs claims
It has failed to break chains of Covid transmission, prevent lockdowns or enable people to return to a more normal way of life. The organisation, previously led by former TalkTalk boss Baroness Harding (pictured), also had 'muddled' objectives, the Public Accounts Committee said
Despite committing to reduce consultants – paid an average of £1,100 a day – the service employed more in April 2021 (2,239) than in December 2020 (2,164).
Committee chairman Dame Meg Hillier said: 'It set out bold ambitions but has failed to achieve them despite the vast sums thrown at it.'
- NHS Test and Trace 'has not achieved its main objective to help break chains of Covid-19 transmission and enable people to return towards a more normal way of life'.
- The programme's 'continued over-reliance on consultants is likely to cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds'.
- Uptake of services provided by Test and Trace is 'variable' and 'only a minority of people experiencing Covid-19 symptoms get a test', with some groups less likely to take tests compared with others.
- The programme's laboratories approach and contact centre usage is 'still not flexible enough to meet changing demand and risks wasting public money'.
Meanwhile, the professor who helped create the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab has said it is unfair to 'bash the UK' over high numbers of Covid cases – around 40,000 a day in recent weeks.
Professor Sir Andrew Pollard said: 'If you look across western Europe, we have about ten times more tests done each day than some other countries.'
The damning report has been published just ahead of Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Budget, where he will lay out the details of the recently-announced £6billion funding boost for the NHS.
It details how the Test and Trace system failed to hit set targets and that spending on consultants was out of control.
Mr Hancock had promised that the system would allow the Government to avoid the use of national lockdowns and instead get the contacts of people who had contracted Covid-19 to isolate.
The report also details how less than half of contact tracers who had been hired were ever in use at any one time.
It said: '[NHS Test and Trace] has a 50 per cent target utilisation rate for its contact centre staff, but the highest reached was 49 per