Parliamentary and public questions

In March 2021 a report from the UK Parliament’s public accounts committee said there was no evidence to show that the £37 billion spent on the privatized test-and-trace program had helped to reduce infection levels.

The cross-party spending watchdog challenged ministers to justify the “staggering investment of taxpayers’ money” and criticised the use of expensive private consultants – 2500 still employed in February paid an estimated £1100 per day with the highest rate at over £6000 per day.

The MPs’ report questioned:
– an over-reliance on consultants
– failure to be ready for a surge in demand for tests in September
– never meeting its time target to turn around tests done face-to-face
– not providing enough work for contact tracers.

In November 2020 Parliament’s spending watchdog had criticised the government for a series of shortcomings when it awarded more than £17 billion of contracts to private companies to counter the Covid-19 pandemic, including deals to supply personal protective equipment to NHS staff.

The public overwhelmingly considered the test and trace system a failure.

The searing Parliamentary report in March came just a few days after the government proposed a 1% pay rise for National Health Service nurses – effectively a pay cut as it was below the rate of inflation and derided as “pitiful” by angry nursing organizations which threatened strike action.

The government faced a major backlash, especially given they had praised NHS staff as heroes for the past year of the covid crisis. Two public opinion polls – one for the Observer newspaper and the other for inews – showed widespread public support for larger pay increases.

A few months later, in July, the NHS pay review panel recommended a 3% raise, supported by the government. The nurses again threatened strike action.

Public accounts committee report
Test and trace waste
Public says test and trace failed
1% for nurses?
Angry nurses
PM faces backlash
Observer poll
iNews poll
Nurses still angry