Jaws drop as it emerges UK Health Security Agency pays 1,400 consultants as much as £3,100 per day
It emerged today that the UK Health Security Agency is paying consultants as much as £3,100 per day.
While the number used by the UKHSA has reduced, as of January 31 it was still employing 1,476 management consultants.
In a letter to the Public Accounts Committee, the UKHSA said that the majority of these consultants are employed in “highly specialised technology and data analytics roles”.
The emergence of the Omicron variant of the virus meant that a number of consultants were kept on longer than expected, the UKHSA explained.
It added that these consultants are paid anywhere between £706 and £3,100 per day, with the average management consultant earning £1,244 daily.
Health bodies have been under the microscope for bringing in expensive consultants throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Quizzed about the figures by MPs on the committee, UKHSA chief executive Dame Dr Jenny Harries said: “All of those costs, whilst I know they will feel for many public viewers very high, they are standard contract costs… so we are using all the systems in place to ensure we get the best value for money.”
She told MPs that only 32 per cent of the workforce were in “substantive” civil service contracts, which had posed difficulties in transferring technology used in the pandemic into “standard practice”.
Consultants were also needed for projects such as decommissioning testing sites.
“With the Living with Covid programme, we are rapidly downsizing and taking away a large chunk of those things appropriately for the current prevalence levels.”UKHSA chief executive Dame Dr Jenny Harries
“And as soon as we land some of the infrastructure that we’ve developed for that we want to take forward for health protection, then clearly we will be able to take out some of these consultants.
“We are coming down… we did have to ramp up again a little bit for the Omicron wave again, only in response to a national health risk.”
Meanwhile Dame Jenny and Shona Dunn, second permanent secretary at the Department of Health and Social Care, were also asked about the Covid-19 contracts awarded to Randox.
The firm was awarded £776m of contracts for Covid-19 testing during the crisis, but it emerged that the majority of these contracts were awarded without competition.
Dunn conceded that the lack of documentation was “particularly unfortunate” but she described new initiatives to ensure improved record-keeping going forward.
And she said the contract provided value “as part of the wider testing effort”.
Dame Jenny said: “Once that testing got going, they (Randox) actually overperformed later on, and it was the work that Randox did which really got us through the next wave of the pandemic through that winter, they were absolutely critical in the capacity that was provided.”
Former North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson resigned from Parliament in November last year after he was found to have broken lobbying rules by repeatedly lobbying on behalf of two companies for which he was acting as a paid consultant – Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods.
Asked whether the department followed its rules on lobbying, Dunn said: “The department, absolutely.
“And I think it’s clear from some of the documentation that we’ve seen, the department was absolutely clear that it would not treat any providers differently as a consequence of any lobbying.
“I think that is, that is certainly clear to me in the documentation that supports this investigation.”