NHS Forth Valley contact tracing team to disband

Photo by John Devlin.

The 80-person team in the area handled up to 700 cases a day in March as the Omicron variant – and its now dominant B A2 subvariant – continues to have very high transmission rates.

But while the numbers have been higher than ever, there has been no increase in serious illness or death thanks to very high levels of vaccination among the population and the new antiviral treatments that are now being used for more serious cases.

Routine contact tracing is due to end on April 30.

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Dr Graham Foster said the changes were aimed at “returning to normality as much as possible, but retaining our ability to respond to Covid outbreaks or if new, more severe variants emerge”.

“We now know that being immune to Covid doesn’t prevent you from getting Covid, but it does prevent you from getting seriously ill,” he said.

A phasing out of most control measures was announced by Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon on March 15.

Changes from April 18 include people without symptoms of Covid -19 are no longer asked to take regular lateral flow tests.

Dr Foster said that although the test and protect team would be disbanded, there would be a core group of staff who would “stand ready to respond” at short notice if needed.

He said: ‘We expect there to be other variants of the virus and there is no way at this stage of knowing whether future variants will be less severe or more severe so we need to be vigilant. . ”

At present, the NHS Forth Valley test and protection team of 32 contact tracers are working 7.5 hours a day, seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The service currently employs 35.64 full-time equivalent (WTE) contact tracers plus 3.8 WTE employees in training and leadership roles who are on fixed-term contracts through September 2022.

Anyone with a contract will be given another role in the health service.

Some staff have been seconded from other NHS roles and there are also bank staff working regular shifts. Dr Foster said he was confident they would be able to re-establish a team if needed.