NHS Test and Trace: Building a team of 50,000 in four months

01 April 2021 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read
More news on

It has been over nine months since NHS Test and Trace was launched in May 2020, in direct response to the growing pandemic in the UK. With the health of the nation dependent on having an effective system to help prevent the spread of the virus, the pressure to develop an effective and prominent contact tracing programme was immense … and immediate.

Simon Lipscomb, Sales and Marketing Director at Efficio, a consultancy specialised in procurement, spoke with Jacqui Rock, Chief Commercial Officer at NHS Test and Trace Programme about her experience building an organisation from the ground up, that has since grown to 50,000 people strong.

Building a complex organisation

With just four months to build an organisation similar in both size and complexity to Sainsbury’s, there were bound to be significant hurdles. “An operating model was put in place within two weeks – under normal circumstances, this typically takes a year, but it shows how quickly you can accomplish the unimaginable in a crisis. NHS Test and Trace evolved from a crisis response unit to an organisation with plans, strategy, and structure,” said Rock.

NHS Test and Trace: Building a team of 50,000 in four months

“By having clear structure, governance, and buying strategies in place, rapidly scaling organisations can utilise the markets to achieve shorter procurement timescales whilst maximising the benefits of this new category structure,” added Lipscomb.

The need for speed and agility

Test and Trace’s mission is like hitting a moving target, in which the scope changes daily and there is an urgency with everything. “It’s not just a government response – every supplier needs to be engaged and have good contracts, everything needs to be bought, and the contracts are vital so that everyone understands their individual roles.” continued Rock.

“It’s important to have a handful of key commitments from suppliers and customers during any disruption, and businesses need to update contractual frameworks for such events. A joint approach with key suppliers help to establish a more reliable supply chain and improve strategic partnerships. Another key aspect is to evaluate logistic set-up and treat logistics providers as partners in order to secure capacity and evaluate different routes to get the products to customers,” continued Lipscomb.

A new way of doing procurement

The UK’s vaccination programme has been a global front runner. NHS Test and Trace has continued to reach a high volume of cases and contacts and, with improving turnaround times for tests, the service has seen a record-breaking start to 2021.

“We have come a long way and are very clear on what our road map for the next eight months looks like. We will continue to harness subject matter expertise, enhance supplier relationships, and drive delivery at speed and with scale,” said Rock.

“Developing good strategic supplier relationships and implementing a joint approach is fundamental to the future of procurement,” said Lipscomb. “We’ve seen what can be achieved in a short space of time via NHS Test and Trace, and it has highlighted the importance of taking a proactive approach to supplier management.”

“This has been an unprecedented situation, and the pace and innovation has been unlike anything seen before; but the collaboration has been phenomenal, and it has shone a light on a new way of doing procurement.”

“Moving forwards, organisations need to build stronger, more resilient supply chains. Digital transformation will also be key to drive more effective procurement and continue to improve supplier management and engagement,” concluded Lipscomb.