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Government Legal Department forced to outsource legal services for Test and Trace due to Brexit

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had to outsource legal services for its Test and Trace (T&T) programme last year because the Government Legal Department's resources were "increasingly being redeployed towards EU Exit", it has emerged.

A contract award notice released this week (February 3) that dates back to September 2020 reveals that DAC Beachcroft was appointed to a contract worth £252,000 to establish a dedicated legal function for Test and Trace.

According to the contract, the specialist nature of the role meant that many of the skills required were not "readily available elsewhere in the Department or within the Government Legal Department (GLD)" at the time.

"Further, GLD is itself having to increasingly outsource its own legal work in support of the Covid-19 project because its resources are increasingly being redeployed towards EU Exit," the contract states.

The Test and Trace service was established by the government to track down contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19. According to the contract, a legal function for T&T needed to be established and ramped up quickly before infections increased in the winter.

"Due to the significant pending workload (e.g. dozens of contracts in Test division requiring renewal in the next 2-3 months/ scale up/ increasing compliance and governance demands/ pending winter peak transmission) the Customer needs to rapidly establish an internal legal capability using a mix of resource provided by law firms (primarily from GLAS panel law firms)."

DAC Beachcroft agreed to provide qualified solicitors or barristers with in-depth knowledge and experience of the UK healthcare sector, In-depth commercial and commercial contracting skills, and knowledge of data protection and privacy law (as it relates to healthcare).

The law firm also agreed to provide:

  • Legal advice to stakeholders at all levels
  • Management of external counsel.
  • Company secretarial.
  • Board advisory.
  • Experience of working in or for central government.
  • Experience of operating at a senior level in the public and/or private sector.

The contract began on 3 September 2020 and will end 31 March 2021.

According to the contract, permanent employees will be eventually be assigned to Test and Trace's legal team. "As T&T moves towards its anticipated longer term status as an ALB this contracted resource will be rotated off the programme and be replaced by permanent hires."

Another contract award notice published this week (1 February 2021) revealed that DAC Beachcroft was also appointed by the DHSC to a separate contract worth up to £500,000 to provide "legal advice and services to support DHSC's response to the Covid-19 pandemic".

This contract started on 26 November 2020 and runs until 31 March 2021.

Adam Carey