A LABOUR MSP has demanded better support for Test and Protect staff after allegations of a “toxic” working environment.

Workloads in Scotland’s Test and Protect service have soared as the daily number of cases has risen in recent weeks.

Despite the number of positive cases confirmed each day beginning to level off, Labour MSP Paul O’Kane has penned a letter to Health Secretary Humza Yousaf – raising fears that the extra pressure has left staff morale “at an all-time low”.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Test and Protect no longer meeting WHO targets amid cases surge

Mr O’Kane, his party's public health spokesperson, has called on SNP ministers to increase the number of staff to ease the burden on workers and provide Test and Protect teams with mental health and wellbeing support.

In his letter, Mr O’Kane said “there have been reports on the working conditions in NHS Test and Protect that have been described as ‘toxic’ as staff are being overwhelmed”.

He added: “As we are entering a period of easing of restrictions, we must continue to be cautious in limiting the spread of the virus, and with a weakened morale in the workforce of Test and Protect this will become more challenging.”

Extra staff are being hired to help deal with the increased caseloads, but some procedures have been scaled back to allow staff to prioritise certain cases.

Overseas arrivals are no longer followed up by phone call and are now just contacted by text message, secondary contact tracing is not taking place and scripts have been whittled down.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Follow-up checks 'paused' from red country arrivals

Mr O'Kane said: “Test and Protect staff are working tirelessly to keep the virus under control, but the Government’s failure to invest in the system has made this an impossible task.

“These are, by the Government’s own admission, front line workers. The stress they are being put under as they attempt to keep us all safe is utterly unacceptable.

“The SNP must urgently increase capacity and work with staff to ensure they have the resources and the support they need.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Contact tracers are a core part of our frontline pandemic response, and their resilience and adaptability in the wake of rising case numbers in recent weeks has been simply outstanding. 

“We continue to work proactively with health boards, directors of public health and with the national contact centre to tailor our contact tracing response to high case volumes. 

"Additionally, we continue to support ongoing recruitment processes in local contact tracing teams to ensure that teams are capable of deploying workforce in line with agreed scheduling requirements. 

“As part of our efforts to build a system which can respond to demand, we took steps earlier this year to work with two commercial partners to augment staffing within the national contact centre.

"This has helped the system to cope with the pressure it has been placed under in recent weeks. Last week the national contact centre was bolstered by the addition of 100 staff.”