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Dido Harding defends paying NHS Test and Trace consultants £1,000-a-day

NHS Test and Trace boss Dido Harding was questioned by the Commons Public Accounts Committee - Credit: parliamentlive.tv

NHS Test and Trace boss Dido Harding has defended paying consultants £1,000 a day.

Harding, a Tory peer, told the Commons Public Accounts Committee that she felt it was “appropriate” to seek help from the private sector in “extreme emergency circumstances” such as the Covid-19 pandemic.



David Williams, the Second Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health and Social Care, backed those claims.

Asked if he was confident that there were no “super-profits” being made out of test and trace, Williams told MPs he was “as confident as I can be”.

“In terms of profiteering, as it were… I see no evidence that causes me concern on that,” he said.

“The average cost across our consultancy support, I imagine is about the same for Deloitte, is around £1,000 a day,” he explained.

Asked if she was “surprised” or “embarrassed” by the number of consultants involved and their overall cost, Baronness Harding said: “I view this as an extraordinary national effort where, as we’ve built an organisation – as you’re rightly said it is now a very large organisation, £22 billion for a national service from scratch in nine months – in order to do that, we’ve had to call on talent from across the whole of society.

“So, actually, I’m incredibly proud of the NHS colleagues, of the public service colleagues, both in national government and local government and in the private sector and in the military, all of whom have contributed to building NHS Test and Trace.”

One member of the panel shot back: “Ah, I think that’s a no.”

Asked if she thought paying 900 consultants £1,000 a day was right, Baroness Harding responded: “I think it is appropriate to build a service in extreme emergency circumstances using short-term contingent labour and consultants for some of those roles.

“I think they’ve done very important work alongside the public servants, the military, the healthcare professionals and members of the private sector who have come and joined us as well.

“We couldn’t have built the service without all of that combined expertise.”

Consulting firm Deloitte has been working on the Test and Trace system. At one point in November, 2,300 consultants and contractors were engaged in the scheme.

Williams declined to “get into the specific detail of individual contracts” after reports that some consultants were earning as much as £7,000 a day were raised with him.

He promised to later write to the committee about the highest day rates paid by Test and Trace.

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