Anthony Costello of the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Independent SAGE) said in response to openDemocracy’s findings that in his view, “Deloitte do not have… laboratory management skills, data links with the NHS, or experience in designing a test and trace system at scale.” Professor Costello added that Independent SAGE data showed “lamentable performance of this outsourced programme – we recommend that these contracts with companies like Deloittes be cancelled, and investment redirected to the NHS.”
Quite what Deloitte is doing in exchange for this huge Test and Trace payment remains somewhat unclear. The firm seems at pains to stress that most of the controversial system is nothing to do with them, though they say they are “immensely proud” of their role.
No standalone contract or specification for Deloitte’s Test and Trace work appears to have been published – the information was instead revealed in separate official departmental spending data that was quietly released shortly before the US elections, whilst the news media were preoccupied.
The actual work of testing and tracing is being done by a plethora of other private firms – from Serco and Sitel on the tracing side, to G4S, Mitie, Serco (again) on the test-sites, and Amazon, Royal Mail, AstraZeneca, Palantir, Faculty and a host of other firms who’ve been given a string of multi-million contacts to distribute, manufacture, book and process tests, and store and utilise patient data.
Earlier this month Sky News reported that 1,114 Deloitte staff had been provided to the Test and Trace system, but the new figures are the first indication of how much this small army of management consultants is costing the taxpayer. Deloitte told openDemocracy that 1,114 was a “peak” and the actual numbers of consultants had fluctuated.
What is the money actually for?
The Department of Health and Social Care refused to answer questions on what Deloitte’s Test and Trace role has actually been. Deloitte told openDemocracy that it was “immensely proud” of its work on Test and Trace.
The firm said their work had not included operating test sites, nor setting up nor running the Lighthouse Labs. It said it had not been involved in “building any contact tracing in the UK market”. It had worked with the government “and various suppliers” to assist with the setting up of testing, and “designing and building a digital platform” to book appointments and register test kits.
The test booking process has been beset with problems, highlighted by some people seeking tests being directed hundreds of miles from home. Deloitte said the problem arose only “for a very short period in September”.
There have also been significant problems with data sharing, with public health officials complaining earlier in the year that they had “seen no data” from the “Deloitte screening programme”.
Both the firm and the government’s testing privacy statement said Deloitte is “responsible for holding data captured by the registration system and making it available to the NHS” and that it “hosts and maintains the digital platform that the test tracking system sits on”. Deloitte downplayed its wider role, saying that its work does not include “reporting the results of tests to patients or public health bodies,” which it said was carried out by the NHS. Deloitte have said elsewhere in relation to its work on data and digital systems, that the “systems have to link up with every other part of the programme – [including] the parts of the NHS that report your result back to you and on to other parts of the NHS.”
Deloitte said its platform “manages registrations and bookings for tests. The registration and booking data is then used by the NHS to match with results returned from labs, to communicate the test result to users and send data to other health care systems such as GP records.” In other words, it seems to be saying, it has provided the digital tools, but it is the NHS which is responsible for using it and thus for any problems.
openDemocracy has previously reported that Deloitte were also said by insiders to have been offered an unspecified sum to help develop the Operation Moonshot mass-testing programme, though neither the government nor Deloitte have said anything to suggest that this could account for any of the £38 million the firm received in July.
How did they get the money?
Both Deloitte and the Department for Health refused to explain why a standalone contract setting out the nature, scope and total cost of the Test and Trace work given to Deloitte, does not appear to have been advertised nor published, with the government commenting merely that all its contracts are “subject to value for money considerations”.