Public health experts criticise outsourcing of test-and-trace re-organisation

Why not ask actual experts?

Matt Hancock at a Covid press conference

Several local public health directors have criticised the Department of Health’s decision to involve a private consultancy company in re-organising its test-and-trace programme.

According to the Health Service Journal, the government has asked Mckinsey to review the governance and organisational form of the programme.

Mckinsey will consider whether the programme should remain part of the Department for Health, become independent or be merged with another body like Public Health England.

But many doctors and the public health directors for Sheffield, Doncaster and Croydon have criticised the decision.

Public health directors are usually senior doctors who have chosen to specialise in public health. At the moment, their main job is to fight coronavirus in their local area.

Sheffield’s director of public health Greg Fell tweeted: “Do McKinsey know a lot about contact tracing. Or public health. I do so hope they will be asking some people who do know a lot about this sort of stuff.”

Doncaster’s director Rupert Suckling and Croydon’s Rachel Flowers re-tweeted Sir Chris Ham who said: “Would have been better to ask experienced NHS and [local authority] leaders who know what’s needed to do this. [Test and Trace] is so important as our collective insurance it needs the brightest and best from public service to review and lead.”

The CEO of the Nuffield Trust healthcare think tank also criticised the decision. Nigel Edwards said: “This is pretty disgraceful & a real indictment of [the Department for Health] which Matt Hancock needs to grip. [The Department for Health] appear to be dependent on external advisors but not able to manage them – so you need to hire one lot to police the others.”

Many doctors also criticised the decision. Antony Costello is a peadiatrician and former director of the Institute for Global Health. He tweeted: “Why not call in some district public health consultants who have been doing most of the contact tracing with a 99% follow-up rate?

The Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth also criticised the decision. He tweeted: “£10 billion allocated by ministers to Test & Trace. £££ handed to ad hoc mish mash of private firms & local health leads still denied the daily data needed. McKinsey now brought in. Just invest in public health & primary care to lead local test & trace.”

The government-appointed chair of the test and trace programme is Dido Harding. She is a telecoms executive married to a Tory MP and used to be a consultant for Mckinsey. Her only healthcare experience is as chair of NHS Improvement.

The test-and-trace programme has been partly outsourced to Serco. They then outsourced the recruitment for the programme to several sub-contractors who committed several data breaches.

Mckinsey previously received £250,000 a year to advise the government on its 2012 Health and Social Care act.

Joe Lo is a co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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