Campaigners in Sunderland gathered in the city centre yesterday to protest against the Government’s implementation of the National Track and Trace system.

Protesters for the Keep Our NHS Public Group, Sunderland, joined Sunderland Trades Council outside the city Civic Centre yesterday to stage a socially distance protest against the contracts of the Track and Trace system being awarded to a private company, Serco and Sitel.

Serco and Sitel were initially provided with £108 million to implement the Track and Trace system over a 14-week period with the option to extend their contract after August 23.

An estimated £410 million in total will be awarded to Serco and Sitel by the government to extend the national track and Trace system, designed to inform people if they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Keep Our NHS Public groups across the country want local agencies and organisations to run the Track and Trace system instead of the national government.

The Sunderland protests were part of a wider action taken by similar groups across the country yesterday as part of a united Not a Penny More protests organised by Keep Our NHS Public local groups in areas across England.

Laura Murrell, Secretary of Keep Our NHS Group Sunderland, said: “The 18,500 contact tracers employed by them on Track and Trace have on average managed to contact only 2 people each.

“Up until a week or so ago their success rate at contacting people was only 50% and, although it has improved a little, it still falls short of the 80% target deemed to be necessary to contain the spread of COVID.

“Local health teams are over seven times more successful in tracing contacts than Serco, yet the government insists on employing a private company to do the job rather than adequately resourcing local public bodies.

“Serco has, inter alia, been fined £3million by the Home Office for failing to fulfil other government contracts; been subject to fraud investigations; made errors in handling NHS patient records and staff data; and has been accused of the poor handling of pathology labs, prisons and security contracts.”

“KONP Sunderland & District believes that  Serco and Sitel should not receive a penny more of taxpayers money. Local public health teams are more experienced, can do the job more efficiently and cost-effectively and the millions being wasted in lucrative contracts to Serco and Sitel should be invested in the NHS, local authorities and local public health instead.”