A screenshot from Twitter, on the costs of NHS Test and Trace, has been widely shared on Facebook.
But the calculations in the post use inaccurate figures.
The post says: “Something doesn't add up. There have been 93M tests to date. £37Bn equates to £400 per test. Track and Trace employed around 20,000 staff. £37Bn equates to £1.85M per staff member. These numbers make no sense. What WAS the £37Bn spent on?... Or who?”
It is true that about 93 million virus tests had been conducted by 7 March, which was the latest data available when this post was published.
The £37 billion figure, however, does not represent the money that has been spent on Test and Trace so far. This is the total budget for its first two years, up to April 2022.
Actual spending on Test and Trace was £5.7bn up to the end of November 2020, and is expected to be close to £20bn by the beginning of April.
Nor has all of this money been spent on testing, either. Up to the end of October 2020, when around £4 billion had been spent in total, about £0.5 billion had been spent on contact tracing. Overall, the National Audit Office has found that about 85% of the £15 billion Test and Trace budget confirmed in November was assigned to testing, along with much of the extra money allocated to it since.
The figure of 20,000 staff appears to be incorrect as well. The post says that “Track and Trace” [sic] employed this many people, which may mean that it is talking only about people who work in contact tracing. If so, it is wrong to make the calculation about staff with the £37 billion figure, most of which is not spent on contact tracing.
On the other hand, if the post meant that 20,000 people were employed by the whole Test and Trace programme, then the figure is too low.
Staffing levels in the Test and Trace programme have varied over time, but its Business Plan published in December 2020 said that “over 50,000 people” were working on the programme in some capacity.
A large amount of money is being spent on Test and Trace, but this post uses inaccurate numbers to assess that spending.