The bosses of the consultancy who raked in millions of pounds from the ‘eye-wateringly costly’ NHS Test and Trace system had a boozy party weeks before MPs attacked the project’s failure.

Boston Consulting Group’s London management drank expensive drinks at the glamorous October 8 bash at Fitzrovia’s Berners Tavern.

The glamorous event was attended by BCG partners as well as their significant others. They also enjoyed a lavish sit down dinner. 

One picture from the event showed at least 30 drinks lined up on the bar – where cocktails cost £15 a glass – ready to be quaffed by the partygoers.

Another featured a string band playing music in glitter-covered dresses inside the cavernous venue. Jason Atherton is the Michelin-starred chef.

Did you attend the party? 


Charles Heidsieck Blanc Des Millénaires 2006 Champagne is served at the upmarket restaurant at £49 a glass with one of its most expensive individual food choices, the 8oz grass-fed Scottish fillet steak, costs £40.

It was not surprising that one of the guests at the BCG get-together referred to it as ‘amazing’, and praised the delicious food and beverages.

However, questions were raised about whether a company that has received so much taxpayer cash should celebrate in such an extravagant way.

Company accounts released on the firm this month revealed ‘profit for discretionary division among members’ was some £164.6million. Last year it was nearly £95.8million. 

MailOnline was informed by Lord John Mann: “It is appalling. They are throwing a party, but they should be throwing one for NHS workers.

“They should be ashamed and give back their money.

“This should not be treated with contempt. They should be throwing a Christmas party at every care home and hospital in this country, using their profits. 

Management at Boston Consulting Group in London devoured pricey drinks at the bash

London-based management of Boston Consulting Group indulged in expensive drinks at the bash

A string quartet playing music dressed in glitter-covered dresses seated inside the venue

A string quartet playing music inside the venue, wearing glitter-covered dresses.

The glitzy occasion in London was attended by BCG partners and their significant others

The glamorous occasion was attended by BCG Partners and their significant other in London

Company accounts from BCG UK show profit for division for year up to March 31 was £164.6m

Company accounts from BCG UK show profit for division for year up to March 31 was £164.6m

The NHS Test and Trace system was run at the time by TalkTalk boss Baroness Harding

TalkTalk boss Baroness Harding ran the NHS Test and Trace system at that time.

A source added:  ‘In the week the Government’s Public Accounts Committee has blasted Test and Trace for wasting so much money on consultants, this is a look that is difficult to swallow.’ 

Yesterday, the PAC reported that 1,864 consultants were still being paid privately from a variety of firms. Evidence has been heard previously some have been paid up to £6,600 a day.

MailOnline contacted BCG to inquire about the party but was unable to get a comment from them.

It came after the company was handed £28million from the Government’s Covid tracking service to populate missing workers for the project.

It is understood to be contracted to carry out at least another £2million worth of work. 

Yesterday, the influential PAC stated that the NHS-branded but not affiliated tracing project was ‘overly dependent on expensive contractors and temporary employees’.

It stated that it had not succeeded in its main objective to break the COVID-19 transmission chains and allow people to return to a more normal life.

Incredibly despite committing to reduce consultants – paid an average of £1,100 a day – the service employed more in April 2021 (2,239) than in December 2020 (2,164).

Details sent to the committee also disclosed that as recently as August, 1,864 consultants were still on the on NHS Test and Trace system’s books.

The Public Accounts Committee also stated that the organisation, previously run by Baroness Harding (ex-TalkTalk boss), also had’muddled goals.

The National Audit Office published detailed information about the amounts spent on consultants in June.

The £37billion NHS Test and Trace service has been an ‘eye-wateringly expensive’ failure, a damning report by MPs claims

The £37billion NHS Test and Trace service has been an ‘eye-wateringly expensive’ failure, a damning report by MPs claims

NHS Test and Trace consultancy contracts and their pay so far

Deloitte LLP

£298million, £174million paid so far

IBM United Kingdom Limited 

£46million, £21million paid so far

Accenture (UK) Limited

£30million, £18million paid so far

The Boston Consulting Group UK LLP

£30million, £ 28million paid so far

PA Consulting Services Limited

£30million, £10million paid so far 

Zuhlke Engineering Limited

£25million, £12million paid so far

Bramble Hub Limited

£17million, £8million paid so far

BAE Systems Applied Intelligence Limited

£15million, £8million paid so far

McKinsey & Company Inc. United Kingdom

£14million £12million paid so far

Ernst and Young LLP

£12million, £9million paid so far

The highest was to Deloitte LLP who were awarded a £300million contract, with IBM United Kingdom Limited second on the list with a £46million deal. 

Next were Accenture (UK) Limited, BCG and PA Consulting Services Limited who each got £30million contracts.

Zuhlke Engineering Limited got a £25million deal, Bramble Hub Limited got a £17million agreement and BAE Systems Applied Intelligence Limited was contracted for £15million of work.

McKinsey & Company Inc. United Kingdom got £14million while Ernst and Young LLP closed the top ten of those contracted with £12million.

Back in August last year Wolfgang Emmerich,  CEO & Partner at Zuhlke Group, Tweeted of his pride in the work they had done on the tracing app.

He said: ‘The large team from Zuhlke Group that built this new app are very proud of having reached this important milestone for the Test and Trace programme.’

Nearly a fifth of 2020/21 NHS England budget is spent on Test and Trace.

Between November 2020 and April 2021 only 45 percent of the testing capacity was used, and sometimes as low as 11% of contact centre staff were being used.

Only 96million of the 691million lateral flow test it distributed were registered. It is not clear what benefit the remaining 595million test have gotten.

The former Health Secretary Matt Hancock championed the programme, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it ‘world-beating. 

Dame Meg Hillier, chairman of the Committee, stated that despite its bold ambitions, it has not been able to achieve them despite spending huge sums.

Meanwhile, the professor who helped create the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab has said it is unfair to ‘bash the UK’ over high numbers of Covid cases – around 40,000 a day in recent weeks.

The programme was championed by the then Health Secretary Matt Hancock, whilst Prime Minister Boris Johnson described it as 'world-beating'

The program was championed at the time by Matt Hancock, Health Secretary. Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, described it as ‘world-beating.

The main conclusions of the damning report 

– NHS Test and Trace “has not achieved its main goal to help break chains and Covid-19 transmission and allow people to return to an ordinary way of living”

– The program’s “continued over-reliance” on consultants is likely cost taxpayers hundreds and millions of pounds.

– Test and Trace services are ‘variable’ and only a small percentage of people with Covid-19 symptoms receive a test. Some groups are less likely to be tested than others.

– The programme’s contact centre and laboratories approach is “still not flexible enough for changing demand and risks wasting taxpayer money”.

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard stated that there are ten times as many tests in western Europe than any other country.

The damning report has been published just ahead of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget, where he will lay out the details of the recently-announced £6billion funding boost for the NHS.

It describes how the Test and Trace system failed its targets and how spending on consultants was out-of-control. 

Hancock had said that the system would allow government to avoid national lockdowns and instead get the contact information of people who have contracted Covid-19 to isolate.

The report also reveals that less than half of the contact tracers hired were actually in use at any given time.

It said:[NHS Test and Trace]It has a target utilisation rate at 50% for its contact center staff. The highest reached rate was 49% at January 2021, and it had fallen to 11% by February 2021.

“Over Christmas 2020 when there appeared to have been spare laboratory capacity and Covid-19 instances were rising, performance fell and it took more time to provide test results. Only 17% received test results within 24hrs in December 2020.

Of the near-700million lateral flow tests which were distributed by NHS Test and Trace, only 14 per cent were registered online – something which is essential for the spread of coronavirus to be tracked.

Dame Meg Hillier said NHS Test and Trace failed to live up to its 'bold' ambitions

Dame Meg Hillier stated that NHS Test and Trace did not live up to its bold ambitions

From TalkTalk to Test and Trace: Dido Harding’s journey to  leading UK’s ‘most wasteful public spending programme of all time’

Dido Harding became famous as the chief executive at TalkTalk Telecoms Group in 2010.

Dido Harding

Dido Harding

She was twice awarded MoneyMail’s wooden spoon award for the worst customer service in British companies during her time as CEO.

Ofcom handed TalkTalk record fines for overbilling. TalkTalk suffered a cyber attack in 2015 that saw 157,000 clients have their data stolen. TalkTalk’s profits dropped by half and TalkTalk’s shares lost two-thirds of its value.

Harding, 53, who had by then been elevated to the House of Lords as Baroness Harding of Winscombe by old university friend David Cameron — an ally of her Tory MP husband John Penrose — was eased out of her £2.7 million-a-year role in 2017, only to be immediately handed a new job chairing the powerful hospital regulator NHS Improvement. 

The Prime Minister promoted another big promotion: last year, he put Harding in charge at Test and Trace and promised that this would help liberate Britain from the coronavirus.

Despite its huge budget, with the 2,500 consultants on its payroll earning an average of £1,000 a day, Harding’s organisation has ‘failed to make a measurable difference to the progress of the pandemic’, according to a February report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

Lord Macpherson, the former head of HM Treasury has referred to it as “the most inept and wasteful public spending program of all times”.

A damning report by the National Audit Office also revealed that Test and Trace was still struggling with the basics.

Harding quit Test and Trace. He defended the service against criticism by saying that the exceptions were set too high’.

She also said that Covid testing in Britain was now ‘the envy for the world’. 

It was revealed earlier this year that Harding had applied to be the new head for the NHS after Sir Simon Stevens resigned.

Reports suggested that Harding was ‘unlikely to be appointed’ after Matt Hancock resigned amid revelations about an affair with an aide.  

The committee also criticised handling of the cash, highlighting that the programme has still not managed to reduce the number of expensive contractors – who are paid an average of £1,100 per day – and has not developed a ‘flexible’ approach to using laboratories, which ‘risks wasting public money’.

The report states that Test and Trace’s “continued dependence on consultants is likely be costly taxpayers hundreds of million of pounds”.

It has been focusing on the implementation of programs and paid less attention to ensuring they delivered the benefits promised, it states.

The programme’s services are ‘variable’ in that some people are less likely to take a test.

The cross-party committee of MPs stated that the programme must be moved into the UK Health Security Agency.

Dame Hillier said that the taxpayer will be liable for hundreds of millions of pounds if it continues to rely on overpriced consultants who ‘delivered this state of affairs.

“This huge amount of money requires a legacy system that is ready to deliver when it is needed, but it’s not clear what the long-term results will look like. If we are to get any value from the money spent, this legacy should be a priority for government.

MPs have made a number of suggestions and made improvements to the programme.

Baroness Harding spearheaded the development of the Test and Trace programme, which was quickly implemented at the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic. The programme aimed to test the nation and trace contacts of positive cases.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive at the UK Health Security Agency(UKHSA), stated that “NHS Test and Trace” (NHSTT), played an essential role combating this pandemic.

“The Public Accounts Committee acknowledges that there have been improvements in testing capacities, turnaround times, speed and reach of contact tracer – and improved collaboration between local authorities.

“The truth is that NHSTT saves lives every day and helps us fight Covid-19 by breaking transmission chains and spotting outbreaks wherever possible.

“More than 323,000,000 tests have been conducted across the UK. The NHSTT has contacted more people than 19.9 million, slowing down the spread of the disease.

A government spokesman said: ‘NHS Test & Trace has delivered on what it set out to do – break chains of transmission and save lives.

“To date, more than 323 million virus tests have been performed and nearly 20 million people have been contacted, who could have accidentally transmitted the virus.

“We have relied on the vast expertise of a number public and private sector partners, who have been invaluable in helping to fight the virus.

“We have built a testing network that can process millions upon millions of tests per day – more than any European nation – and provide a free LFD/PCR test to anyone who requires one.

“The UK Health Security Agency (the new UK Health Security Agency) will consolidate the knowledge currently available across our health system to help tackle future pandemics.