The UK authorities is laying the groundwork to increase its Covid-19 check and hint system so far as 2025 in an indication of how lengthy officers concern the pandemic might proceed, based on lately revealed contracts.
The UK Well being Safety Company, which took over check and hint in October, has signed at the least 4 contracts with consultancies Deloitte and Accenture regarding the supply of the programme, with the potential to increase till April 2025.
The paperwork additionally point out that journey restrictions might stay, at the least intermittently, for a number of years.
Accenture has been requested to work on digital methods to “monitor and monitor compliance in opposition to worldwide journey rules related to arrivals from crimson, amber and inexperienced nations”.
The offers, which have a complete worth of as much as £111m if they’re prolonged to their full size, recommend well being authorities are already making contingency plans for Covid testing to proceed for a number of years.
Beneath two of the brand new contracts with the UKHSA, Deloitte stands to be paid as much as £67.2m for work on home contact tracing and as a “supply companion” offering IT help. The 2 new Accenture contracts are price as much as £43.9m.
The agreements got here into impact on October 29 and run for an preliminary 18 month time period however could be prolonged for as much as an additional two years.
Well being authorities need “to place in headroom so that they don’t get caught out if one other emergency state of affairs occurs”, mentioned one guide.
The contracts have been awarded regardless of strain to cut back the reliance on exterior consultants to keep up the check and hint system.
“The Conservatives are handing out eye-watering sums of taxpayers’ cash to administration consultants, each penny of which implies much less funding within the frontline workers who preserve our NHS going,” mentioned Wes Streeting, shadow well being secretary.
Deloitte has individually been awarded a £56.5m contract by NHS Digital to proceed offering IT methods for the nationwide testing programme till March 2022, taking the full worth of the guide’s pandemic-related public sector contracts nicely previous £500m. A seek for a supplier of IT providers from April 2022 is already below approach, NHS Digital informed the Monetary Instances.
The agency, which paid its 691 companions greater than £1m on common final 12 months, has additionally been employed by the Division of Well being and Social Care to advise on Covid passes for entry into hospitality and leisure venues.
Officers mentioned in August that the variety of consultants engaged on check and hint had fallen over 4 months to 1,864 from a peak of greater than 2,500.
“They should wean themselves off this method, particularly if it’s going to run till 2025, probably,” mentioned Meg Hillier, Labour MP and chair of the Commons public accounts committee.
The committee present in October that regardless of being handed a price range of £37bn over two years, check and hint had failed to realize its predominant goal of lowering transmission and serving to life return to regular.
“With that amount of cash, they’ve repeatedly mentioned they need a legacy, and that legacy shouldn’t be paying consultants frequently. This must be bread and butter stuff for the UKHSA,” mentioned Hillier.
Nevertheless, the contingency planning was welcomed by Craig Beaumont, chief of exterior affairs on the Federation of Small Companies, who mentioned that “for too lengthy, complete testing has not been prioritised”.
“To maintain the financial system and their operations open, companies are going to want robust testing infrastructure alongside the vaccine rollout. Covid goes to be with us for the lengthy haul. It can be crucial that testing is there after we want it,” he mentioned.
The UKHSA mentioned: “Drawing on the experience of personal sector companions to offer specialist know-how and providers is usually very important to our work to reply shortly and at scale to well being threats.
“We proceed to construct a powerful crew of knowledgeable and generalist civil servants and at all times recruit to the civil service wherever we will.”
“The Nationwide Audit Workplace, public accounts committee and authorities departments have all acknowledged that consultants could be an vital supply of specialist expertise and capabilities for public sector organisations,” Deloitte mentioned.
The well being division and Accenture declined to remark.
Extra reporting by Daniel Thomas