NHS Covid app tapped Accenture for £6.5m consultancy deals

Details revealed of two short-term support contracts

During the second half of 2020 the government called in Accenture to provide £6.5m of consultancy support to the development and operation of the NHS Covid-19 app.

Newly published procurement documents reveal that the Irish-headquartered professional services giant was awarded a £2.3m contract that began on 24 May 2020 and ran until 31 August. A second deal, worth £4.15m, came into effect the following day, and lasted until the end of the year.

The earlier contract – which commenced a month before government abandoned work on the first contact-tracing app – stated that Accenture’s “consultancy skills are required on an advisory basis to advise and enable the Department of Health and Social Care in its endeavours”.

The “workstream” for which the outsourcer provided staff was dedicated to “supporting the [DHSC] with the project management for the Covid app, and technical and SME support for the journey to national rollout”.

The deal covered the provision of a range of technical and programme-management experts, including designers, testers, and content managers, as well as at least one “marketing strategist”.

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The DHSC and Accenture entered into the second contract two months after the work was halted on the original app, which had been built on a centralised architecture designed to allow public-health officials to gather and analyse data. It was scrapped after testing revealed it worked only patchily on Android devices, and hardly at all on iPhones.

By the start of September, public testing was underway on a program based instead on the Exposure Notification system jointly developed by Apple and Google. 

The contract required Accenture to commit to openly publishing all relevant code.

“All software created for the buyer must be suitable for publication as open source, unless otherwise agreed by the buyer,” it said. “If software needs to be converted before publication as open source, the supplier must also provide the converted format unless otherwise agreed by the buyer.”

Accenture was contracted to provide expert personnel across about 30 different disciplines, covering development, operational delivery, security, change management, analytics, marketing, and user support. 

Throughout the delivery of the Test and Trace scheme, Accenture has been one of the key commercial partners; outside of the two contracts reported here, the firm was won a further £6m of contracts related to the programme, government records indicate.

Test and Trace has recently expressed, however, its desire to reduce its use of consultants in the coming weeks and months. 

A DHSC spokesperson said that this reduction has already begun, and that the department has plans to continue this process. They added that all agreements have been signed with a view to achieving value for money.

“As part of our response to this global pandemic, we have drawn on the extensive expertise of a number of private sector partners who have provided advice and expertise to assist in the government’s vital work,” the spokesperson added. “This public-private partnership has helped us work faster and more effectively as we tackle the virus.” 


Sam Trendall

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