THE Scottish Government has agreed to pay a private company £10m for help with Covid tracing, despite SNP ministers insisting the work is not being outsourced.
NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) has signed a deal with Glasgow telemarketing firm Pursuit Digital Ltd for “additional Test and Protect call centre capacity”.
NSS said the work would “free NHS colleagues to return to vital front-line services”.
Labour said it suggested there was “chaos” in the Test and Protect system.
The deal, confirmed on the Government’s procurement website, was awarded directly rather than through competition under emergency Covid rules.
NSS said the reason was “extreme urgency brought about by events unforeseeable”.
The contract is for an initial two month period up January 3, with a possible extension to 31 March 2021.
If the contract is extended the full price would be £10.2m, suggesting it is costing around £2m a month.
In May, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the Scottish Government would meet or exceed its target of finding 2,000 people to carry out contact tracing.
However, in September it emerged that Scotland had just 874 contact tracers available.
Last month there was a row over the private sector filling the gaps, after ministers said “all the work of identifying and tracing contacts will be done within Scotland’s NHS”.
It emerged NSS gave £1.29m to Motherwell-based call centre Ascensos and £1.8m to Barrhead Travel for the “immediate and rapid deployment of contact tracers”.
Accused at the time of reneging on her commitment, Nicola Sturgeon denied the use of private call centres amounted to outsourcing.
She said: “No parts of the contact tracing system is run by the private sector. I want to make that perfectly clear.
“This small number of staff recruited from the private sector work within the NHS system, they work under direction of the NHS, they are trained in Test and Protect, they work as part of that integrated NHS system – they are not working to a private…