Test and Protect data concerns referred to statistics watchdog

Newspaper reports there had been more than 50,000 'failed' contact tracing attempts in a year.

Test and Protect data concerns referred to statistics watchdog Getty Images
Scottish Labour has reported data concerns to UK Statistics Authority.

Scottish Labour has reported the Test and Protect system’s data on coronavirus contact tracing times to the UK’s statistics watchdog.

It follows a report that official figures did not include “failed” contact tracing attempts – where the Test and Protect team were not able to reach positive cases by phone.

The Scottish Sun reported there had been more than 50,000 such failed cases in a year, making up around 10% of all Test and Protect cases.

The newspaper says these failed cases were not included in the weekly figures published by Public Health Scotland (PHS), which are used to determine if the system is meeting the international standard of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The target is for 80% of cases to have their close contacts traced and quarantined within 72 hours of the case being confirmed.

The Scottish Government says it is confident in its interpretation of the PHS data and how it relates to the WHO standard.

Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “In the chaos of this unprecedented public health crisis, we need to be able to trust the official statistics we’re seeing.

“These astonishing revelations sum up everything that is wrong with the SNP’s handling of the pandemic – they show a government more concerned with hiding their failures rather than fixing them.

“This is not the first time they have been caught out pushing the boundaries of accuracy when it comes to statistics.

“The WHO’s mantra may be test, test, test, but the SNP’s is spin, spin spin.”

Baillie has written to the UK Statistics Authority seeking an investigation, saying that when the “failed” cases are included the overall performance dips below the WHO standard.

Other opposition parties also claimed the figures were misleading.

Dr Sandesh Gulhane, health spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “It is clear SNP ministers have misled the public on their poor performance for as long as possible.

“They wanted to spin that they were on top of tracing positive cases, but nothing could be further from the truth.

“The reality is that they have been cutting corners for well over a year.”

PHS have said they are reviewing the way data on Test and Protect is presented.

A Scottish Government spokesman told the Scottish Sun: “Test and Protect continues to work well, with contact tracing teams successfully handling record numbers of daily cases during the recent rise in cases.

“It is an integral part of the frontline pandemic response.

“We are confident in our interpretation of PHS’s published data on contact tracing performance and how it relates to performance against the indicator of 80% of cases closed in 72 hours.

“Those data reports set out transparently how performance figures are calculated.

“We are grateful to the high numbers of people who engage with contact tracing and provide details of their contacts.”

A spokesman for the UK Statistics Authority confirmed they had received Ms Baillie’s complaint on Monday.