Government’s Test and Trace service could run until 2025, consulting contracts suggest

But if extended to their full length, each of the four contracts with the government’s new UK Health Security Agency – which took control of Test and Trace in October – could run until 29 April 2025.

The government’s Test and Trace service, introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic, could run until at least 2025, recently published consultancy contracts suggest.

Four new government contracts with Deloitte and Accenture, potentially worth up to £111.1m in total, see the two multinational firms contracted to carry out work relating to the contact-tracing service, initially for 18 months from 29 October.

The new agreements come despite pledges by the Department of Health and Social Care to reduce the use of external consultants in the Test and Trace system, amid criticism from MPs who recently warned the service had failed “to achieve its main objective” despite being handed roughly a fifth of the NHS annual budget in two years.

By the end of October, Test and Trace reportedly employed 1,230 consultants, potentially costing some £1.35m each day – although this would mark a significant reduction from the 2,239 consultants said to have been employed in April, then accounting for nearly half of the service’s central staff.

One of the new contracts also suggests that officials believe travel curbs may be needed for years to come, with Accenture asked to work on systems that “provide the capability to track and monitor compliance against international travel regulations associated with arrivals from red, amber and green countries”.

As part of a second contract with Accenture, the firm has also agreed to work on developing services “to support the increasing use of the private market for the provision of testing”. The two contracts could together see the firm handed up to £43.9m if they are extended in full.

Deloitte, meanwhile, stands to earn up to £67.2m from its two new contracts for work relating to contact-tracing and customer feedback operations, among other areas.

The firm was also handed a £56.5m contract with NHS Digital last month to keep providing IT systems for the Covid-19 National Test Service until 31 March, which according to the Financial Times brings the the total value of Deloitte’s pandemic-related public sector contracts beyond £500m.

In response to the paper’s report on the most recent consultancy deals, Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the public accounts committee, said: “They need to wean themselves off this approach, especially if it’s going to run until 2025, potentially.”

Referring to Test and Trace’s £37bn budget in its first two years, Ms Hillier added: “With that amount of money, they have repeatedly said they want a legacy, and that legacy should not be paying consultants on a regular basis. This should be bread and butter stuff for the UKHSA.”

A UKHSA spokesperson said: “Drawing on the expertise of private sector partners to provide specialist technology and services is often vital to our work to respond quickly and at scale to health threats.

“We continue to build a strong team of expert and generalist civil servants and always recruit to the civil service wherever we can.”

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