'Troubling' concerns over privatisation of National Care Service with another contract going to consultancy giant

Concerns the Scottish Government could be setting up the National Care Service for long-term privatisation have been raised again by trade unions following another contract being awarded to a global consultancy firm.

The comments come after confirmation PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) was awarded a contract to help analyse the results of a key consultation around the establishment of a National Care Service in Scotland.

This contract – worth £90,000 to the consultancy giant – is the second major piece of work it has been handed by the Scottish Government after it was the only bidder for the project.

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Trade unions have raised concerns about the involvement of large private companies in the design of the National Care Service.

In October PwC won a contract worth £100,000 to set up an “agile design team for National Care Service” after again being the only bidder.

The fresh contract will “provide robust and timely analysis and reporting” on the consultation responses around the National Care Service and Anne’s Law, which aims to give relatives of care home relatives a right of access.

The contract details add that it will “inform the development of primary legislation” on both these issues.

Nicola Sturgeon said the reform to the care sector would be a “fitting legacy from the trauma of Covid” and would be the “most significant public service reform” since the establishment of the NHS.

The SNP aims for the service to be operational by 2026.

However, Dave Moxham, the Scottish Trades Union Congress’ (STUC) deputy general secretary, said the award was “particularly concerning”.

He said: “This is yet another example of the Scottish Government use of private contractors with a historical interest in the privatisation of services and profiting from so-called public sector reform.

"It is particularly concerning that this contract concerns the creation of a National Care Service that we, any many others, believe should be a genuine public service with the profit motive removed.

"It is beyond belief that the Scottish Government does not have amongst its skilled civil service, the capacity to undertake the analysis of responses to the public consultation on a National Care Service or on Anne’s Law.”

In October, the STUC’s general secretary Roz Foyer criticised PWC’s involvement, particularly their “vested interest in privatised provision”.

These concerns were echoed by Scottish Labour, with the party’s social care spokesperson, Paul O’Kane saying the contract award raises “fundamental questions” about the public sector’s expertise.

He said: “This marks a troubling direction of travel for our new National Care Service.

“This was supposed to be a chance to put care users and social care workers right at the heart of the system, but instead one contract after another is being handed over to private sector giants.

“It raises fundamental questions about why the public sector has been stripped of the skills and capacity to lead the way on ambitious projects like this.

"We cannot miss this opportunity to build a National Care Service worthy of the name, built around genuine expertise and person-centred care.”

Responding, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The decision was made to procure an independent analysis of the consultation responses in line with standard Scottish Government practice for complex consultations.

“PWC bid for and won this contract, having responded to an openly advertised tender exercise, in full compliance with procurement rules.”

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