Opposition parties have attacked the Scottish Government after reports that contact tracing has been outsourced.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in May that the work of Scotland’s Test and Protect system would be done within the NHS, however a notice on the Public Contracts Scotland website shows a contract has been awarded to call centre firm Ascensos.
The company has sites in Motherwell and Clydebank, as well as on the Isle of Wight, in Romania and the Netherlands.
The contract award notice shows Ascensos was the only bidder for the contract, which totalled £1.29 million, and was directly awarded the work without prior notice being given to other firms.
The notice cited “extreme urgency brought about by events unforeseeable for the contracting authority and in accordance with the strict conditions stated in the directive”.
According to the notice, the contract was for the “immediate and rapid deployment of additional track and trace contact tracers” which would “meet the additional demands of the Scottish health and social care sector during the current Covid-19 pandemic”.
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who has previously called for clarity on the number of contact tracers available to the Scottish Government, said the contract is a sign ministers are “struggling” to provide a contact tracing service.
He said: “Hiring more contact tracers is essential to cope with the long delays that hundreds of people have been experiencing.
“Waits of more than two days are dangerous when every moment counts with this virus.
“But this contract will not be enough if it is just filling the gaps left by staff returning to their original jobs.
“The fact that the SNP Government are outsourcing this work is a sign that they are struggling to deliver an effective tracing system, especially when they have previously criticised the use of such outsourcing by the Conservative Government.
“Contact tracing is essential if we are to successfully hunt down and drive out the virus.”
Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “With the Scottish Government failing to deliver on its promise to recruit 2,000 contact tracers, outsourcing looks like a desperate move to rescue Test and Protect.
“This comes months after asking members of the public to express an interest in the work, with 20,000 people putting themselves forward including retired healthcare workers.
“The opportunity to draw on their skills was missed.
“For weeks, Scottish Labour has been calling on the Government to recruit more contact tracers but they have not done enough to build up capacity and expand routine testing to key workers.”
Ms Lennon accused the Scottish Government of “complacency and dithering” over the performance of Test and Protect.
She added: “SNP ministers may be turning to outsourcing, but the buck stops with them to expand Test and Protect and make it work efficiently and effectively across Scotland.”
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