Deloitte selling contact tracing services to local UK health officials

This article highlights the difference between the public sector ethos to work for the benefit of the public and private sector motivations which are quite different. From the start of the pandemic, the government has turned its back on the public sector and favoured out-sourcing to firms like Deloitte. Could this explain why the test and trace system is failing so badly? Are we being ripped-off – Owl

Robert Booth 

Deloitte, the consultancy giant hired by the government to help run the NHS test-and-trace programme, is involved in selling separate contact-tracing services directly to local health officials in the UK.

Directors of public health have been invited to a demonstration of a local test-and-trace system developed by Deloitte and Salesforce, a US software company with which it has a business partnership.

It offers “a secure local contact-tracing solution which has been implemented by public authorities in the USA, Australia and New Zealand”.

The pitch, circulated this week by a Salesforce salesperson, promises: “This solution can be deployed very quickly, is totally paperless, meets UK government security requirements and can be used by local partners too.”

It follows widespread criticism by directors of public health of the national test-and-trace system, which Deloitte has been a key part of. The contact-tracing part of the national system is carried out by Serco and Sitel.

One director said the marketing approach felt like an attempt to profit from weaknesses in the national system. Approximately 22% of people transferred to the contact-tracing system between 10 September and 16 September were not reached by tracers, an increase on 16% the previous week, according to latest official figures.

Deloitte confirmed it had developed a digital tool to support local health authorities with local contact tracing. It said it was separate to Deloitte’s work on the national testing programme and that it was not involved in building the new national tracing system that is part of NHS test and trace.

But a director of public health who received the email pitch on Tuesday said: “The ongoing failure of NHS test and trace is being turned into an opportunity for one of the companies engaged in it to profit. This is not a coherent world-beating system. It is a worsening fiasco. While test and trace talk about working in partnership with us and fail to deliver, one of the providers of testing comes round the back door to profit from councils trying to pick up the pieces.”

Deloitte has already been awarded central government contracts to set up testing facilities and it coordinated the set-up of home testing, testing at NHS trust locations and in care homes. It hosts and maintains the NHS test tracking digital platform, manages appointment bookings and holds data captured by the registration system and makes it available to the NHS.

The pitch claims that its local system is designed to integrate with the national system “so that, once live, data can be transferred seamlessly from the national to local system for more complex local testing, or where a personal visit or local knowledge is required”.

It adds that “many different approaches have been used to contact people with positive tests, and then to trace their families and close contacts” but that “often these are reliant on paper-based recording”.

Earlier this month Jeanelle de Gruchy, president of the Association of Public Health criticised the NHS test-and-trace system for limited or no testing capacity in some areas, delays in requests for mobile testing units, cases and outbreaks being missed by the system, poor quality and missing data and slow or inadequate contact tracing.

Deloitte was named as a key consultant in leaked documents about “Operation Moonshot”, a supposed £100bn government mass testing project.