Government spends £800k on queue-management system for coronavirus test-booking site

Written by Sam Trendall on 6 May 2020 in News
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Software from ACF Technologies was purchased without usual competitive procedures

Credit: Olly247/CC BY-SA 2.0

The website through which citizens can book coronavirus tests is supported by an £800,000 queue-management software system.

The site, which launched two weeks ago, allows over-65s, key workers or those with whom they share a home to book a test if they are experiencing symptoms of Covid-19. Tests can be booked to at one of a number of drive-through centres around the UK, or self-testing kits can be posted out – although these are in shorter supply.

More than 20 million people are now eligible for testing and, in anticipation of the extremely high demand the site has experienced, the government recently purchased £800,000 of licences from specialist software firm ACF Technologies. A newly published contract notice reveals that the Department of Health and Social Care bought the technology without any competitive tender process, owing to the “extreme urgency” of the need in this case.


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“A limited market research shows that the cost charged is in line with the market price for the material and services acquired,” the department said. “Within the DHSC Covid-19 strategy we require to provide the software, hardware and configuration to manage the queuing system to book and manage the testing capability for Covid-19. ACF provides licences for the software, machinery and support to deliver the service and the security to protect it.”

When the test-booking site first launched, it took little more than an hour for all the available tests for that day to be booked up, after which visitors to the site were directed to come back the following day. At time of writing, no home tests or on-site tests in Wales are available, but tests at drive-through centres in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are on offer.

US-headquartered ACF specialises in “customer experience solutions”. In addition to its home country, it has a network of offices around Latin America, and European outposts in Madrid and Woking.

 

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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