More than 1,000 consultants from Deloitte are now working on Test and Trace, according to newly released documents that underline the scale of the government’s reliance on the private sector.
According to documents released by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) under Freedom of Information rules, there are currently 1,114 consultants from the firm who are working on the scheme.
In pure headcount terms, this is about the size of a small UK government department.
The news is the latest evidence of the growing cost of Britain’s testing system, which is already budgeted at about £12bn – equivalent to the cost of four aircraft carriers.
Deloitte, which has both accounting and management consultancy arms, charges anything up to £2,360 a day for each of its consultants.
According to its most recent accounts its equity partners shared an average payout of £882,000 last year.
It has been engaged on the creation and management of the testing system, including everything from the online portal for those seeking tests to the creation of test centres around the country, although it is only one of a number of private sector firms involving what is known as Pillar 2 – the centralised private sector arm of Britain’s COVID-19 testing operation.
The documents released by DHSC show, however, that Deloitte vastly outnumber the other management consultants hired by the government to help run Test and Trace.
The government is also employing consultants from McKinsey, BCG, PWC, KPMG and EY – however their combined numbers total 144.
Although the government has not disclosed how much these consultants are being paid, on the basis of Deloitte’s charge sheet, and presuming those consultants have been working since April, the cost could run as high as £200m to £300m.
The wider testing system has faced numerous controversies in recent months, including problems with shortages of tests and, more recently, a data error at Public Health England which involved the temporary loss of 16,000 test results from national databases, meaning thousands of people exposed to the disease were not tracked down in a timely manner.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We continue to work with a wide range of public and private sector partners as we respond to this unprecedented global pandemic.
“These organisations provide the specialist skills and experience we need to contain the spread of the virus and save lives.”
Tamzen Isacsson, chief executive of the Management Consultancies Association (MCA), said that outsourcing had “enabled the government to work quickly and with intensity on major initiatives”.
She added: “It has been our industry’s priority to strengthen the response and processes of clients and provide value for money.
“Consultants have been proud to support government during these challenging times.”
A Deloitte spokesperson said: “Deloitte is immensely proud to have been able to step up and answer the government’s call to British businesses to support the national testing programme when the pandemic first emerged. At short notice we have provided the capacity, skills and expertise at the scale needed to support this critically important programme.
“Forty public and private sector companies are now supporting the programme, with tens of thousands of people across 500 sites and processing millions of tests per week. The UK is now testing more per capita than most major countries in Western Europe.
“Our digital technology, procurement, supply chains, logistics, real estate and project management teams have worked tirelessly since March. We look forward to continuing our support, advising on ways that new and innovative testing programmes can be introduced and developed.”