UK Test and Trace finding habit hard to break • The Register

Global IT consultancies Accenture and Deloitte have landed nearly £ 94million in contracts from the UK public health agency after taking over the Test and Trace COVID-19 response.

The government has repeatedly pledged to reduce its reliance on outside consultants as part of the £ 37billion testing and traceability efforts amid criticism from MPs and the National Audit Office, a body independent oversight of public spending.

The promises have not dissuaded the British Health Safety Agency (UKHSA), the body that replaced Public Health England (PHE), from embarking on a new round of contract awards as it assumes responsibility of the Test and Trace service of the Ministry of Health and Social Assistance (DHSC).

In recently published contract award notices, he announced Deloitte had earned up to £ 36.9million for national contact tracing and inquiries, including work for business analysis and service design, engineering design and solution creation. The contract started in October and is expected to end in April 2025. It won a role as a test and traceability delivery partner worth up to £ 30.3million during the same period.

Accenture received a contract worth up to £ 25.4million to be a delivery partner for Trace, Contain and Real-Time (RTTS) technology services, a role that includes business analysis and technical builds. This also won works for borders and international and for CRM delivery of Contain in a deal worth up to £ 18.5million. Both are expected to run until April 2025. (For those wondering, Contain is a mainstay of Test & Trace’s larger strategy: Test, Trace, Contain, and Enable.)

The contract was awarded as The Guardian revealed Test and Trace still spends over £ 1million a day on private consultants, according to official figures. They show that at the end of October, Test and Trace employed 1,230 consultants for an average daily rate of £ 1,100.

According to a report By Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) released in October, the DHSC assured MPs that it planned to reduce the use of external consultants by the Test and Trace service, “but that this depended on the availability of civil service recruits to fill positions and future demand for testing and tracing services. “

The service employed more consultants in April 2021 (2,239) than in December 2020 (2,164), according to the report.

Dido Harding, head of department at the time, had explained to the committee that until the end of May 2021, 196 (or 37%) of the 523 recruiting drives it conducted had not named anyone “because the skills that NHST & T was trying to recruit, in the roles of data, digital, operational and of project delivery, were rare in the public service. “

Formed in May 2020, the NHS Test and Trace Service (NHST & T) was established as a central government initiative, outside of established NHS public health organizations, including Public Health England. After the replacement of PHE by the UK Health Security Agency, the Test and Trace service came under its remit.

In June, a written response from Parliament revealed that the Test and Trace program had hired more than 2,300 consultants and contractors working for 73 different suppliers at a total cost of around £ 375million.

Also in June, Serco won a £ 322million contract to continue work on the COVID-19 testing and traceability system in England and Northern Ireland. The outsourcing giant said the new contract was awarded following a competitive process led by DHSC and the Crown Commercial Service.

In a statement, a UKHSA spokesperson said: “We are working to reduce the number of consultants in a constructive and planned manner without harming our health protection services which we need to change during the pandemic.

“A number of positions require specializations that are highly sought after in competitive markets and we have employed consultants to help us provide these vital services. We have significantly reduced the number of consultants in many areas while meeting the unprecedented demands created by COVID-19. We are seeking to build a strong team of expert and general civil servants and to always recruit into the civil service wherever we can. “

In February, Harding justified the use of consultants to establish the service. Many of the positions were “fairly technical [in addressing] business processes and systems design as we build the services “.

In October this year, the PAC released a report criticizing the government’s performance on Test and Trace, saying it had failed to meet its pandemic mitigation targets. ®

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