Nuffield Trust: Test and Trace costs remain a concern as performance falls seriously short

Senior Fellow Dr Billy Palmer responds to the latest test and trace report from the National Audit Office.

Press release

Published: 25/06/2021

Responding to Test and trace in England – progress update from the National Audit Office, Nuffield Trust Senior Fellow Dr Billy Palmer said:

“Test and trace is now over a year old but is still falling seriously short of its performance targets despite the eye-watering cost to the taxpayer. 

“We know that recent performance has improved, but the delays in getting some people their test results and failure to reach many close contacts are worrying and disappointing.

“The £14bn price tag so far remains a concern. This report highlights expensive contracts and underused resources such as laboratories and contact tracers. More work is needed to ensure the potential benefits of this vast investment are future-proofed.

 “An expensive test and trace system alone is not enough. If the government is serious about successfully suppressing new variants and keeping infections low, it needs to help more people to go on to self-isolate. Test and trace can’t work effectively if people cannot self-isolate for fear of financial hardship.

“In May, the Nuffield Trust and Resolution Foundation set out a costed proposal to use a modified version of the job retention scheme and self-employment grant to remove financial barriers and ensure more people are not penalised for doing the right thing.”

Notes to editors

  • The Nuffield Trust is an independent health think tank. We aim to improve the quality of health care in the UK by providing evidence-based research and policy analysis and informing and generating debate.
  • For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Simon Keen on 07780 475 571 or