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Five-person team gets £25k a day to work on Test and Trace system

Amid claims that England's crucial COVID-19 contact tracing scheme has failed, Sky News can reveal that the government has been paying a five-person team of management consultants £25,000 a day to work on that part of the system. 16 October, 2020

Amid claims that England's crucial COVID-19 contact tracing scheme has failed, Sky News can reveal that the government has been paying a five-person team of management consultants £25,000 a day to work on that part of the system.

The team from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) helped mastermind the creation of the contact tracing systems.

They were only a fraction of the private sector consultants working on the test and trace system, however, they are believed to have been among the most expensive.

Two members of the team were being paid day rates of £7,360 while the remaining three were being paid £4,160 - though the consultancy gave the government a 10% discount for the job.

The revelation, based on confidential documents seen by Sky News, underlines the extent of how much the government is paying for the work of individual high-flying executives on the system, which is supposed to help track down the contacts of those who have caught COVID-19.

There are around 40 BCG executives in total working on Test and Trace, on day rates ranging from £2,400 to £7,360.

The individual consultants may not receive this full sum, but the firm charges on the basis of an individual's time.

Fresh figures published by Test and Trace today show that in the latest period for which there is data, the week to 7 October, the proportion of contacts successfully reached in England dropped to 62.9% - the lowest since the creation of the system.

The fall may be associated with the data problems a couple of weeks ago, when a spreadsheet error at Public Health England meant around 16,000 cases were not rapidly passed to the tracers.

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However, it means the system is now falling far below the objectives set out by public health officials, who would like 80% of contacts to be reached.

Dr Layla McCay, director at the NHS Confederation, said: "If the NHS is to continue to be able to cope, with the added challenges of winter, we will either need to see a swift and significant improvement in the test and trace system, or more draconian measures over even larger parts of the country."

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "Today the new figures show just 62% of contacts were reached.

"That's equivalent to 81,000 not reached, circulating in society, even though they've been exposed to the virus.

"This is another record blow and yesterday we learnt that consultants working on Test and Trace are being paid over £6,000 a day to run this failing service.

"In a single week the government is paying these senior consultants more than they pay an experienced nurse in a year.

"So can the secretary of state explain why such huge sums of money are being paid to consultants to run a service that is only getting worse?"

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