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10 facts about Serco’s role and performance on NHS Test & Trace

When the UK Government looked for support on its national testing and tracing programme, Serco responded to the Department of Health and Social Care, the NHS, and other partners to help deliver one of Europe’s biggest systems.  However, both our role and the performance of the service is poorly understood.

Here are 10 facts which everyone should understand:

1. What we do:

Serco is proud to be playing a part in the NHS Test & Trace programme. However, the part we play is limited and specific. We account for a small percentage of the overall investment in the service: 

  • We are one of four suppliers managing fixed and mobile sites where people go to get tested. We currently manage about 20% of these in the UK, which have successfully delivered millions of tests.

  • On the tracing side, our main role is one of two companies in the national system responsible for telephoning the people who have been in contact with people who have tested positive.

  • As reported by the UK National Audit Office there are 454 suppliers supporting Test and Trace.

2. What we do not do:

  • We are not involved in any other parts of the Test and Trace process. 

  • We are not involved in the design and management of the overall Test or Trace programme. 

  • We are not involved in modelling the capacity requirements of the system. 

  • We are not involved with the NHS App, the IT systems, management of data, the booking of tests, the provision of test kits, the test laboratories, or delivering test results and we do not provide consultants for the programme. 

3. The UK Government has, with its partners, built one of the largest systems in Europe: Hundreds of millions of tests have been delivered by NHS Test & Trace - it is the largest Covid-19 testing system in Europe.   

4. Since Test and Trace began it has successfully traced over millions of people and asked them to self-isolate. 

5. 90% of the close contacts spoken to by the national system of which Serco is a part agree to self-isolate or are appropriately redirected to another part of NHS Test & Trace 

6. The national system has reaches around 85-90% of close contacts. 

7. For those close contacts the national system doesn’t reach, almost half are due to wrong phone numbers being provided to us, the rest don’t answer after 10 attempts. However these people may well be reached by the NHS Test & Trace App. 

8. A change at the end of 2020 means children can now be reached by our tracers via their parents - until then, our tracers had to speak to every individual in a household – be they tots, toddlers or teens – for them to be counted as ‘reached’.  

9. Statistics have often been compared when they are not comparable. Other parts of the UK, for example Wales, have, since the start, in some cases counted as reached individuals in a household when only one member of that household has been contacted.  Until recently, the Scottish system had a lower threshold for defining someone as reached – with an SMS text message being sent to the individual enough to qualify.  

10. The system has actually been reaching more people than thought for some time.  Before the change in December 2020, 75-80% of close contacts recorded as ‘not reached’ by the central system actually lived in the same household as someone who has tested positive and who has already been made aware of their diagnosis. This means that, in fact, since the beginning, 90-95% of people who genuinely needed to hear from the national tracing system have likely been doing so.

Serco is proud of all the tracers playing a part in the frontline fight against Covid-19 and saving lives.