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UK's NHS hands Accenture another £5m for Test and Trace system for another year

What happened to transferring £1,000-per-day consultant work to the civil service?

Flying in the face of a commitment to wean itself off consultants, the NHS Test and Trace programme has awarded Accenture a £4.8m contract extension to keep its much-criticised COVID-19 Test and Trace system up and running for another year.

The latest contract will see the outsourcing consultancy and professional services outfit maintain the data platform until 1 August 2022.

Accenture is the third-highest ranked consultancy on the Test and Trace spending list, after Deloitte and IBM. Total spending expected to go Accenture's way, according to an NAO report published in June [PDF], would be £30m, putting it a long way behind Deloitte, which is expected to bag £298m from the service.

Toward the end of last month, IBM was handed a contract extension to provide its Strategic Trace Solution to the NHS Test and Trace service for England, securing additional fees of around £20m on the deal signed last year, taking the total expected spending to £47.7m. The extension takes the supplier's expected time on the project until November 2023.

Deloitte was awarded a contract extension for NHS Test and Trace back in January.

The total budget available for the system is around £37bn.

In February, head of NHS Test and Trace Dido Harding admitted consultants on the project were getting an average of £1,100 per day. She also said many of those roles would be transferred to the civil service in time. As IBM and Accenture have secured contract extensions, the service is seemingly not quite there with that goal.

Those expressing doubts that all this spending might offer value for money were given further evidence when the government admitted it did not know how many people had deleted the NHS Test and Trace app in the face of the so-called "pingdemic", where individuals were being asked to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone who had tested positive for the disease.

Meanwhile, anyone hoping the government would abandon plans to use its NHS App as a vaccine passport to access venues such as night clubs were left disappointed.

A spokesperson for the prime minister insisted late last week the plans would go ahead, despite attempts by MPs to recall Parliament to have them debated.

In May, privacy groups were dismayed at the choice of the NHS App as a mechanism for vaccine passports. A study [PDF] by campaign group Big Brother Watch concluded that COVID certificates using the NHS App would be "intrinsically linked to individuals' identities... as NHS records contain a wealth of identifiable, sensitive information including NHS numbers."

The concept itself was thrown into doubt recently after a study [PDF] due to be published in The Lancet revealed that introducing vaccine passports would actually discourage some groups from getting a jab. ®

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