Coronavirus in Hampshire: Police see around 100 officers and staff off a day in NHS Track and Trace pingdemic

AROUND 100 officers and staff in Hampshire police are having to isolate on a daily basis after being pinged by the NHS Track and Trace app.

Zoe Wakefield, Hampshire Police Federation chair
Zoe Wakefield, Hampshire Police Federation chair

Concerned representatives of the frontline say 'exhausted' officers picking up more work are facing further stress.

Hampshire Police Federation chair Zoe Wakefield said all officers should be exempt from self-isolating if they have test negative for Covid-19 using lateral flow tests on a daily basis.

Currently some firearms and custody officers can do so, but neighbourhood and response cannot.

Sgt Wakefield said those who are eligible for using lateral flow tests in this way are ‘a small proportion of the force’.

On some days there have been more than 100 officers staff off. Very few have been sick, with the most pinged by the NHS app, Sgt Wakefield added.

A force spokesman said the issue is being monitored closely with a ‘decrease lately in the number of officers and staff absent due to Covid-19 and self-isolating’.

It comes as the number of people being told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app has fallen by 43 per cent.

Sgt Wakefield said: ‘Response officers are neighbourhood officers, they are public-facing and are not exempt, so it’s not ideal, to say the least.

‘We’re an emergency service; we need all our officers to be able to work and be on the frontline.’

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The reopening of clubs and bars into the night and without restrictions is putting strain on officers, with some new to the job, she added.

There are some 700 fewer officers on the frontline in Hampshire currently than in 2010, the Labour Party has said.

The government has funded a major uplift in police, with 475 officers recruited in Hampshire between November 2019 and March this year.

Sgt Wakefield added: ‘With everything that’s been going on, the constant change in shift duties, it’s been exhausting for officers. We had officers in Cornwall for G7; officers also understandably want to take their annual leave at this time of year, and with student officers who are still learning, it’s hard work for everyone right now.

‘It will get easier once the new cohort gets more confident in what they’re doing. But even with all these recruits, we’re only replacing what we lost before.

‘We’re just getting back to our previous numbers in 2010, so it’s just not enough. Policing has changed; they’re not extra officers. It could be five years or more before we are where we need to be.’

Asked last month about the so-called pingdemic, a Hampshire police spokeswoman said the issue ‘is not impacting our ability to deliver for the public at this stage’.

Officers are being urged to maintain social distancing and use masks, and remote working

She urged people to use the online reporting tool on instead of calling 101 to help keep demand lower.

Between July 15 and 21 some 4,091 Portsmouth people received contact tracing alerts, requiring them to isolate.

This dropped to 2,632 for the week to July 28.

It comes as Covid-19 venue check ins using NHS QR code posters dropped to 36,493 in the week to July 21 and 11,991 the week following that.

But Dr Philip Scott, chair of the health and care executive at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, claimed the app had led to ‘so many pointless alerts’ before the app was tweaked. The change came into effect from August 2.

The reader in health informatics at the University of Portsmouth said: ‘People are either uninstalling it or just not running it, according to the data that shows venue check-in plummeting.

'Overall the app has served a purpose, but there is a need to challenge why its policy basis, of legal enforceability, was different to Test and Trace and why the alerting algorithm was not the same.

‘This is one example that shows why better professional IT standards should be more closely followed when it comes to apps, and algorithms, that affect are daily lives.’

The app was updated so fewer contacts will be instructed to isolate after an increase in people being pinged.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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