PwC offers £20 million discount on services to NHS

18 May 2020 4 min. read
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Big Four firm PwC has responded to an NHS request for pro bono support with an offer a 20% fee reduction, up to the value of £20 million. The news comes weeks after rival firm Deloitte was criticised for its services provided to help the UK Government roll out coronavirus testing.

The NHS was already facing unprecedented challenges, before the impact of Covid-19. Demand has spiked due to an ageing population, while the Government continued to reduce health spending, leaving the institution at a cross-roads in its existence. Now, the under-resourced NHS has been pushed to the brink by the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

In an attempt to help alleviate some of the strain on the institution, NHS England is understood to have written a call to companies to say what work they could do to help it cope with the pandemic. The request for offers of services said firms should “note any estimated costs for offers,” before adding “We also welcome detail of pro bono offers, if any.”

PwC offers £20 million discount on services to NHS

As reported by the Health Service Journal, PwC was among the firms to respond to the call, offering a 20% discount for its work, up to a value of £20 million. The size of the threshold gives an indication of how much consultancy firms expect to make from public sector work during the pandemic, as if the NHS were to take PwC up on its full offer, it would cost it a total of £80 million.

The authors of PwC’s response to the NHS told the Health Service Journal, “As set out in our letter to John Manzoni (permanent secretary for the Cabinet Office), we have agreed to provide support to projects directly relating to Covid-19 response at a significantly reduced rate (20% reduction to our Management Consultancy Framework 2 (MCF2)) rates. Our board has approved £20 million of work in aggregate to be undertaken at these discounted rates across our Covid-19 public sector engagements.”

As one of the Big Four largest professional services firms, PwC reported a revenue of £950 million in its UK consulting arm last year, with overall profits across the UK firm rising 8.7 per cent to more than £1 billion. In spite of this, PwC’s response to the NHS’ call for help said the firm needed to be “mindful of the impact of these discounted rates on our own financial health.” PwC stated it had to be Equity partners in the firm receive an average pay of more than £750,000 – although in the healthcare business it is lower, at around £600,000 – something which would make working for free or at cost price too risky.

It is not known what work, if any, PwC has undertaken for the NHS or wider public sector in response to Covid-19 – though since the outbreak began, PwC submitted five different bids for coronavirus work under the NHS England-run health systems support framework. It is understood that this work ranges from two social care “audit tools” to “strategy and operational demand and capacity planning.”

According to a comment from a PwC spokesperson, also published by the Health Service Journal, the firm is "committed to supporting the critical work of the public sector in tackling the Covid-19 crisis", and is "providing a range of services to the Government and public sector, including the NHS and local authorities, at a discount to the usual government agreed rates.”

The spokesperson added this came alongside other support such as pro bono work in conjunction with NHS volunteer service Helpforce. Responding to a question from the journal about what other pro bono work the company did, they added, "There is other pro bono work but no other examples we wish to provide.”

Rival Big Four members have meanwhile been awarded significant national contracts. These include KPMG supporting the development of the Nightingale temporary hospitals, and Deloitte undertaking major aspects of the protective equipment procurement and testing programmes. This latter example caused a notable spat in April, as it emerged that one testing centre Deloitte supported underperformed to the extent that local hospitals sought to take over the flagship operation.