Swinney won’t rule out penalties against NHS England’s contact tracing group in Motherwell

Sitel call centre, Bellshill
Image BBC

The Scottish media coverage is, no surprise, leaving viewers, listeners and readers unsure as to who is responsible for this outbreak in Motherwell. John Swinney’s involvement is as Depute First Minister for the government with legal responsibility to deal with it but responsibility for the conditions leading to it in the first place lie with a corporation contracted by NHS England to contact trace people living in England.

After closing the 500 staff call-centre in Motherwell, when a ‘cluster’ of six covid-infected staff was identified, John Swinney was asked if penalties could be levied against Sitel, and said:

These are all issues that will be explored, but what our primary focus is on is to make sure that we interrupt any transmission of the virus.

Mr Swinney also said there would be an investigation of how guidance was being followed within the facility. This makes good sense given the recent history of the group.


In March, BBC Devon reported on the Plymouth office of Sitel:

A Plymouth MP has demanded “immediate” action at an NHS 111 call centre in the city amid claims that staff are “terrified to go to work”. Luke Pollard has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying social distancing was being ignored for up to 200 staff on the Sitel Group office He said there were reports that staff had been told to come in despite family members showing coronavirus symptoms.


There are many more tales of incompetence and neglect in Sitel Group call centres across England and beyond.

10 thoughts on “Swinney won’t rule out penalties against NHS England’s contact tracing group in Motherwell”

  1. Sitel is a privately owned contact center company headquartered in Miami, Florida. It provides outsourced sales, technical support, customer service, and other business processes for large companies. The company has 75,000 employees and $1.7 billion in revenue

    Why is it we have always have to go to America for companies ,do they pay tax in this country or is an off shore crowd.
    Are they more Tory friends involved.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. An employee from Plymouth gives his/her views.

    “NHS 111 Call Handler (Current Employee) – Plymouth, Devon – 16 May 2020
    Where do i even begin? The job itself is probably the easiest you will have in your life… that should make you happy right… wrong… the worst managment i have ever worked for. Working on the NHS campaign and it took them god knows how long to introduce social distancing yet we have to take calls and tell people to self isolate and keep 2m…
    when they did introduce it… well monkeys could run it better put it that way. Barely any break times… and if you are running a second late god help you!

    they watch your every move as if they dont trust you.
    the lack of training is appauling… you say something wrong on the phone… you are fired… well maybe they should have proper training.

    Back to managment… christ they are awful! There is a select few who are there to help and thank you to those very (very) select few. managment are the worst! they tell you to keep your distance which is fine and no problems there… yet they dont follow their own rules. managers going to kfc on breaks car sharing with memebers outside their household… yet two members of the same household that work together cant get too close. One manager in paticular… well shes power obssessed.
    If you have an issue with being paid the wrong amount (which you will) you might as well say goodbye to that money as they never sort it. you work 37.5 hours every week… its not hard to pay 37.5 X Pay…

    Basically i do wonder how Sitel is even a company… if you want to progress and want to go far with a job. go elsewhere! they play favourites and its obvious.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Re.Sitel
    All quite simply explained
    They pay a rent largely based on a Sq.ft. basis and one of their largest of costs
    So as such a greedy neo liberal capitalist
    Free marketeers who now firmly belief they are Gods and can do as they please
    With regards toothless legal constraints
    So when it comes to what they regard as vague Social Distance rules which they interpret as guidance as opposed to rules
    They then go on to do 2 things
    1.Calculate how many employees placed at 2.0 M cts.then apply that to working floor space and what that costs in actual rental costs / employee
    And the subsequent knock on effects concerning the increase of costs and possible lost revenue stream having to comply with the clients contract terms
    Result they HATE THE FIGS.produced
    Ah but all is not lost
    So they consult their legal team to give their opinions on Item 2 as follows
    2.They then rework the employee floor plan social distancing at various reduced
    Densities say @ 1.8,1.5,1.25& 1.0 M centres
    Reapply all densities on cost effects
    Then make a preferred Distance to apply
    But before implementing produce a Hazard matrix in order to determine
    A) Risk to employees
    B) Is risk High,Medium or Low
    C) What are consequences of a risk turning into reality
    D) If such in C ) above actually occurs
    Study the contract assess if effort = reward OR if crippling Contract clause used to punish
    E) If and depending on their eagerness to
    Maximise returns and diminish costs a choice is knowingly and deliberately enacted
    F. And most vital that you have a insurance policy by ensuring that you have a FALL GUY to hang out to dry by having someone way down the Snr.management pecking order who was responsible in preparing, signing off and implenting your very risky plan
    And DO NOT OFFER said person any inducements whatsoever
    Cross your Fingers. Go for It
    And if it all goes wrong Fight, Bark and Snarl like the mad dog you truly are
    Know thy Foe
    And in this case i can smell them miles away

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Could this morning’s BBC Scotland News programming on this topic have been hoping to suggest that since the daily figures in Scotland were rising and that since this was in a ‘test and trace’ centre, this shows the inadequacy of Scotland’s ‘test and trace’ system?

    Maybe,I am reading things in these programmes that were not intended to be there!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. If, as has been suggested, staff were spending much of their time in too small rest areas as there was not enough work, what does that say about the excuse that infection numbers are up because more tests are being done?
    Why are people being paid to do nothing?
    Is this to make the figures about the number of testers in England look good?
    More questions come to mind but thats enough for now!


  6. Evidence to a HoL committee from Prof Pollock mentions Sitel.

    “The UK Government have taken a different tack. One of the oft-repeated complaints from the directors of public health is that they are not getting the local data, the notifications of suspected cases, or the test results. Instead of building that up through Public Health England and with the public health departments, the Government have added a bolt-on, which is the new centralised, privatised system of call handlers. So it is incredibly complex. Contact tracing now deals with complex cases through public health teams and with the non-complex cases through the centralised call system.

    However, it is even more complicated than that, because there are three levels of call handlers: levels 1, 2 and 3. Serco and Sitel have employed 25,000 call handlers with very little training to do the contact tracing. Level 2 call handlers are also being employed at a managerial, professional level. They were recruited as sales advisers, not as contact tracers, and they had less than one day of training. Level 1 call handlers were recruited through Capita and NHS Professionals, and they are working out of the public health teams. However, we have no idea how the different parts and the contracts of this system are really working or whether they are working together, because the data is not telling us much.

    The only data we have is that the public health outbreak teams are doing six to seven times more work to trace the contacts than the call handlers recruited through Serco and Sitel. That is all we know, but we do not have a very good breakdown of the data.

    Therefore, at the moment we have a system that is highly fragmented, very inefficient and probably poor value for money, bearing in mind that we have been told that there are 25,000 call handlers at the level 3 grade but they have had less than 15,000 calls in a three-week period: that is, 25,000 call handlers dealing with 15,000 to 20,000 calls.

    So there is a real issue about the value for money, the efficiency and the effectiveness of the system. Why has the UK gone down this route instead of doing what Germany did, which was to follow its contract tracing system and to put in, and build up, good local public health capacity? That is what the directors of public health all across the country are calling for at the moment.”


    Liked by 2 people

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