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Covid: Barrhead Travel staff taken on as contact tracers

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image copyrightBarrhead Travel

Travel agent staff who faced losing their jobs have been hired as contact tracers by the health service.

Nicola Sturgeon said that NHS Scotland had taken on staff from Barrhead Travel after demand for travel dropped.

It approached the Scottish government to offer help with national efforts to control the virus while also keeping staff employed.

Barrhead Travel said it could not confirm how many staff had moved for confidentiality reasons.

They remain the travel agent's employees and the intention is to return them to their original roles when demand for travel returns.

Had they not been seconded to work as contact tracers, the travel agent said it may have had to make further staffing cuts.

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The first minister mentioned that staff had been taken on from the travel agent during the Scottish government's coronavirus briefing.

She was responding to a question about private companies being involved in contact tracing.

Ms Sturgeon stressed that Scotland had not and would not outsource its contact tracing system to the private sector.

She said when staff were being recruited into the NHS system, the health board "will go to different sources to get the people that we need to do the jobs".

The first minister said one "good" thing that had been done was to take on the travel agent's staff.

"The NHS was contacted at an earlier stage of the pandemic by Barrhead Travel to see if we could make use of any of their staff in contact tracing who might otherwise be facing redundancy.

"So we have recruited a number of them to be part of the NHS system to help with contact tracing."

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Jacqueline Dobson, president of Barrhead Travel, said: "As travel is unlikely to return to pre-Covid levels before 2021, we proactively explored other business options to help preserve as many jobs as possible.

"By working in partnership with NHS Scotland to provide highly skilled personnel for national contact tracing efforts, we will be able to save many jobs and keep our people in work until the demand for travel returns.

"Due to the nature of this work, there are confidentiality agreements in place between Barrhead Travel and NHS Scotland and we are unable to disclose any further information about this project."

Ms Dobson added that stores were still open as normal.

A spokesman for NHS National Services Scotland - the operators of the contact tracing centre - confirmed that additional staff had been hired to support the national contact tracing centre.

He said: "This interim staffing solution provides experienced and highly-skilled contact centre staff who can hit the ground running, including those from Barrhead Travel."

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