Deloitte criticised for Covid-19 testing role

30 April 2020 3 min. read
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As the UK looks set to miss its target for coronavirus testing by a significant margin at the end of April, reports have surfaced criticising Deloitte’s role in expanding testing across the country. According to reports from The Guardian, one testing centre Deloitte supports underperformed, to the extent that local hospitals sought to take over the flagship operation from the Big Four giant.

While a recent edition of the respected Global Health Security Index predicted the UK was well-positioned to handle Covid-19, Government mismanagement of the situation soon saw the NHS issuing emergency calls for ventilators and personal protective equipment. With a death-toll which has already surpassed 20,000, experts now expect the country will have one of the worst impacts in Europe.

One of the areas where the UK Government has been most heavily criticised for its handling of the crisis is its unwillingness to roll out testing to the wider public, or even hospital staff. While South Korea showed that wide-spread testing could prevent the virus’ spread – examining more than 357,896 citizens and confirming 9,237 cases in the early stages of its outbreak, and uncovering a number of cases which might not have shown symptoms, but would still have been contagious – the UK has failed to muster anything as effective.

At the start of April, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the country would test 100,000 people per day for coronavirus by the end of the month – a target the Government looks set to have missed by some distance. On April 25th, for example, only 29,058 tests were performed nationwide – more than 70,000 shy. Part of the problem seems to be that the under-resourced NHS simply does not have the capacity to ramp up testing, while a hodgepodge network of private sector operators tapped by the Government does not have the focus that an adequately funded state health service would have.

In the case of rolling out testing, the Government hired Deloitte to help scale up testing nationally, with the firm understood to be handling logistics across a number of the sites, working alongside other private firms such as Serco and Boots. Part of the firm’s remit included supporting a network of about 50 regional facilities, something the Health Secretary previously stated would be key to delivering on the Government promise of 100,000 daily tests by May – but as that target looks set to be missed, it has been revealed one such centre was so dysfunctional that local hospitals sought to take over the flagship operation from Deloitte.

While the Big Four professional services firm says it does not run or manage the testing centres, and simply supports the Department of Health, emails written in early April, and since published by The Guardian, laid the blame squarely at the accounting and advisory giant. The UK newspaper reported that the Chief Executive of Epsom hospital said, “Deloitte who have been commissioned by the Department of Health directly for this are not running this as well as we would like”, before going on to state the hospital was asking “to take over the running of the Chessington centre because we really need it to work much better than it is.”

The Guardian also reported that the request resulted from “severe failings in the service” at Chessington World of Adventures, in Surrey, which led to the test results of NHS staff being “lost or sent to the wrong person.” The request to remove the firm was made in the first week of April, but it is understood to have been set aside after performance improved.

A Deloitte spokesman said, “Deloitte, alongside many other public and private sector partners, is supporting DHSC (the Department of Health and Social Care) to help accelerate and scale testing capacity for the national Covid-19 testing programme.”