It is now becoming commonly accepted that the UK test, track and trace systems for Covid19 is not working as effectively as it might. The reliance of large private sector companies with little prior expertise in contact tracing is one frequently cited issue for the low proportion of contacts traced as outlined in these two articles here and here. Another reason frequently given for the failure of the current system is its top down nature. In this earlier blog post I outline why a top down system is not likely to be effective and that instead we need a more local system where contact tracing can be linked to local support and local knowledge. My blog post was informed by the evaluation of a local community contact tracing system that I helped evaluate.
Whilst criticism of the involvement of consultants in the current track and trace system has been frequently made I argue that, I am uniquely placed to help sort out the current mess. I am well placed due to the combination of recent Covid19 contact tracing expertise, prior research into healthcare efficiency, past professional health management experience and my creative background.
Since April I have been part of the evaluation team for a community contact tracing project in Sheffield. The pilot project started prior to the national contact tracing starting. In this evaluation project I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with healthcare experts include doctors, a professor in epidemiology and a former director of public health. Through the evaluation of the project and regular high level conversations about the UK contact tracing system for over six months now I have developed clarity about what is and what is not working.
Findings from the pilot project have been published in many different sources, including The British Medical Journal as evidenced here, here and here. One of the articles that I co-authored has been referenced in a Public Health England report as outlined in this earlier blog of mine, so it appears that the work that I have been involved with has been recognized and may have started to have some influence. Many of the ideas outlined in the evaluation report I wrote are now starting to be discussed by journalists and politicians. These ideas include the need for contact tracing to be conducted by people with relevant skills and local knowledge.
The prior healthcare understanding I could bring to helping to improve our contact tracing system includes a PhD in health care efficiency and ten years of health management experience. In my PhD I specifically looked at how digital technology could be used. This gave me insight into how contact tracing apps and human activity could be integrated effectively. I outline my research in more detail in this blog post. My track record (see the publications link) is also outlined in my university profile.
My health management experience includes managing a community health charity. This experience gives me an extensive understanding about how community activity could be part of an improved contact tracing system. Alongside my professional roles I have served on four different health committees. These included The Sheffield Health and Wellbeing Partnership Board (the main health committee for the city at the time). On it, I worked alongside senior health officials, including the city’s director of public health. This experience gave me a firm local government perspective on public health that complements the community sector understanding gained from my professional management role. On another committee, the Coalition for collaborative care I served alongside people from national health agencies including NHS England and Nesta. Together, these roles combined with my academic study have given me a firm local government, the community sector and national government perspectives on public health. I believe that an effective contact tracing system would need to consider all of these different perspectives.
In the about me section of this blog, I outline my consultancy skills and approach. I outline how I would utilise the creative techniques and mind-set I gained working in the arts to help clients create innovative solutions to complex problems. I argue that fixing the UK contact tracing system is a complex problem that requires a creative mind-set to address the many issues within the current system.
From the above it should be clear that whilst the involvement of consultants in the UK contact tracing system has not always resulted in improvements I am quite different to the consultants that have been part of the current mess. The combination of my academic, creative and health management background gives me a unique set of skills and understanding that I could apply to help address this issue. These in combination with 6 months of experience in evaluating Covid19 contact tracing in the UK this year make me uniquely placed to help fix the problem. I also add that my motivation for wanting to be employed to help address this issue is not primarily financial. I would certainly not be asking for anything like the £7,000 per day rates that have been allegedly charged by some consultants. The tag line for this blog is digital innovation for good. I want to help primarily because given the opportunity I could help. I would like to help as I believe that improving our contact tracing system would help save both lives and livelihoods as I outline in this earlier blog post and this piece in the BMJ.