NHS Test and Trace Public Advisory Group

The Public Advisory Group brought together people from different backgrounds to inform new policies to help England come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The author(s)

  • Michelle Mackie Head of the Qualitative Research and Engagement Centre, Public Affairs
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The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS Test and Trace – now the UK Health Security Agency – commissioned Ipsos, Imperial College Health Partners and Involve to design and run a Public Advisory Group. The Public Advisory Group brought together people from different backgrounds to hear from experts, discuss issues and make recommendations that would inform new policies to help England come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Sortition Foundation, on behalf of NHS Test and Trace, wrote to 20,000 households from across England that were randomly selected from Royal Mail’s address database. From those who responded to the letter, 100 people were selected. The random selection was weighted to ensure a mix of experience and background to represent the entire country. This included considering age, gender and ethnicity. All participants were 16 or over. The following people were not eligible to take part:

  • elected representatives
  • paid journalists
  • individuals with a conflict of interest
  • individuals who did not live in a household that received a letter.

The purpose of the NHS Test and Trace Public Advisory Group was to ensure that members of the public, especially those most at risk from the virus, had the chance to feed into the government’s ongoing work to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The group was asked to consider issues such as:

  • how the government might use data to reduce public health risks and what this means for individual privacy
  • how support measures can be provided in an equitable way

The group participated in five online workshops (each 3 hours in length) in June 2021 to:

  1. build their knowledge and understanding of the issues
  2. discuss and share their views, insights and questions relating to testing, contact tracing, self-isolation and waste-water testing.

Materials used in the workshops can be found here.

NHS Test and Trace, eventually the UK Health Security Agency, intended to use the work of the Public Advisory Group along with other activities to ensure that the voices of the public, those who are seldom heard, and those most at risk from COVID-19, also feed in to making new policies.

The project was steered by an Independent Advisory Group who provided oversight, direction and challenge throughout the project.

The Independent Advisory Group met regularly during the design phase, before the workshops began, and then twice – once during, and once after the workshops had taken place. They provided input into shaping the questions and related content for the workshops. The members of the Independent Advisory Group were:

  • Michael Burgess (Chair), Professor of Biomedical Ethics, University of British Columbia
  • Paul Plant, Deputy Director, Public Health England (London region)
  • Hetan Shah, Chief Executive, The British Academy
  • Renate Samson, Principal Policy Advisor at Which?
  • Abigail Gallop, Principal Policy Adviser at the Local Government Associatio
  • Mehrunisha Suleman, Senior Research Fellow at the Health Foundation
  • Mahlet (Milly) Zimeta, Head of Public Policy at the Open Data Institute

Minutes of Advisory Group meetings can be found here.

Download the full report here

The author(s)

  • Michelle Mackie Head of the Qualitative Research and Engagement Centre, Public Affairs

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