McKinsey banks £560,000 consulting on “vision, purpose and narrative” for new test and trace body

DHSC drafted in consultancy to help plan permanent organisation to manage coronavirus programme
Photo: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment

The consulting giant McKinsey & Company is set to bank £563,400 for several weeks of work to help define the “vision, purpose and narrative” of a permanent organisation to manage the coronavirus test and trace programme.

A contract document, made public ahead of today’s announcement that test and trace chief Baroness Dido Harding will lead a new National Institute for Health Protection, shows the Department of Health and Social Care enlisted McKinsey’s help in May to consult on what the organisation should look like.

“Building on the work to establish a national testing programme, the programme is now being expanded into a comprehensive NHS Test and Trace service. While this service is being rapidly stood up to meet near term objectives, work is required to develop options for the longer term future of the organisation responsible for this and associated services,” the document says.

“The objectives of this work are to define options for: the vision, purpose and narrative; end-to-end journeys; organisation, roles and talent; interfaces and governance; and integrated roadmap all for the medium-term entity,” it adds.

A business plan for test and trace was published at the end of last month, shortly after the work was completed, setting out objectives for the organisation. The plan said test and trace should provide rapid and accessible large-scale testing; conduct research into antibodies and immunity; deliver a resilient and stable service; and develop "a diverse and engaged workforce".

Health secretary Matt Hancock today confirmed test and trace would be combined with the existing "talent and science infrastructure" of PHE and the work of the Joint Biosecurity Centre in the new NIHP. The body will have a “single and relentless mission” to protect the UK from threats such as including infectious diseases and biological weapons, he said.

It will be led by Harding, a former TalkTalk chief exec who started out her career at McKinsey, and who has led the coronavirus test and trace programme since May.

Consultants began working with Harding and other members of the test and trace leadership team on plans for a new, permanent test and trace body the same month. 

A contract notice for the deal was published a couple of weeks before reports emerged of plans to scrap and replace PHE. A DHSC spokesperson said the work was non connected to the abolition of the public-health body and that the contract was to consider a range of options for a long-term test and trace organisation.

Between May and June, McKinsey was helping to set the design principles and performance objectives for test and trace, as well as “user and data journeys across which the organisation will operate”.

It also considered potential organisational structures and their pros and cons.

The deal does not give McKinsey access to users' personal data. The contract states that if the company were authorised to process any such data, such as people’s names and addresses, driving licence details or biometric data, it would be authorised to do so for seven years after the work was completed.

However,  an additional clause states that such data-sharing was deemed "not necessary" for the work and would not happen without written consent from DHSC and relevant data-protection agreements.

“No personal data has been shared and the contract included a clause specifically to protect such information," a DHSC spokesperson said.

Once the work is finished, McKinsey will own all concepts, tools and databases and other outputs it has generated. It has agreed to give DHSC a worldwide, royalty-free licence to use and copy any tools developed through the work.

The licence is non-exclusive but McKinsey must have DHSC’s permission to share any tools with other organisations or allow them to “remove or circumvent” security or technological safeguards.

The document shows DHSC expects to spend the entire value of the contract. "For the avoidance of doubt, the total contract value will not exceed £563,400.00 exc. VAT," it says.

Asked to comment on the contract and its relationship to the scrapping of PHE, a DHSC spokesperson said: “Public Health England have played an integral role in our national response to this unprecedented global pandemic.

“We have always been clear that we must learn the right lessons from this crisis to ensure that we are in the strongest possible position, both as we continue to deal with Covid-19 and to respond to any future public health threat.”

Updated at 14:47 on 21.08.20 to clarify the contract's position on data protection

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