Senior Tory MP Bernard Jenkin has said the head of NHS Test and Trace Dido Harding should be sacked as he claimed the public has lost confidence in the service.
The Boris Johnson ally said Tory peer Harding “should be given a well-earned break”, and that “the immediate priority is to fill the vacuum of leadership in test and trace”.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Jenkin, who chairs the powerful Commons’ liaison committee, said the failing service needs a shake-up.
He said: “Dido Harding, head of NHS Test and Trace, apparently says that she is struggling with what she inherited when arriving in the role, but during the summer, initial urgency subsided.
“Perhaps some of those exhausted leaders on the government frontline, like Dido Harding, could be given a well-earned break too; they could use their hard-won experience to help this group reflect on the lessons learned so far.”
It comes after the service hit another new low on Thursday, reporting its worst ever figures for tracking down close contacts of people with Covid.
Just 59.6% of cases in England were reached and told to self-isolate to stop the spread of the virus.
The government has said 80% of contacts must be reached for the service to be effective, a point underlined by chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance on Friday.
“The challenge for the government is becoming one of public confidence,” Jenkin writes. “Much incredible work is being done, but we are still a long way from the ‘world-beating contact tracing system’ promised in June.
“Announcing fresh targets (now 500,000 tests a day by the end of October) does not instil confidence, because people lack faith that there is a coherent plan.
“Instead, ministers should see this as an opportunity to make changes. This change must be visible and decisive.”
Labour has called for private contractor Serco, which has also been repeatedly criticised, to be removed and test and trace work to be handed to local public health teams.
Shadow mental health minister Rosena Allin-Khan also said on Sunday that Harding should go.
“Her position is very difficult. It’s untenable, really,” she told Sky News.
Speaking to Sky News, Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis said he did not agree with Jenkin and defended Harding.
The prime minister admitted last week that the service must get better.
He said: “I share people’s frustrations.
“We do need to see faster turnaround times.
“We need to improve it.
“We do need to ensure that people who get a positive test self-isolate.”