The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) said the decision to give the £546,000 contract to accountancy giant KPMG was “totally unacceptable”.
Scottish Labour also criticised the Government for “parcelling off” the National Care Service to the private sector.
Establishing a National Care Service is a key Scottish Government policy for the coming Holyrood term, with the service due to be fully up and running by 2026.
Nicola Sturgeon said the reform 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.
Dave Moxham, deputy general secretary at the STUC, criticised the move, arguing it was inappropriate for those with a vested interest in privatisation to have an input in the creation of the National Care Service.
He said: “This is now the third time in a couple of months that the Scottish Government has chosen to bring in private sector consultants with an interest in the privatisation of public services to shape the future of the National Care Service. This is totally unacceptable.
"The growing proportion of private sector provision in adult social care continues to be a be a major concern, particularly when it takes place through corporate structures designed to facilitate tax avoidance.
"The failures of many private sector care homes during the pandemic and the failure to pay a decent wage to carers are major issues that must be resolved.”
This fresh contract, which received six bids, is the first major National Care Service contract to receive more than one bid after fellow giants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) received almost £200,000 worth of work connected to the policy as the only bidder.
PwC’s first contract covered the creation of an “agile design team” for the service, while their second covered the analysis of the wide-ranging consultation on the plans.
The £546,000 contract awarded to KPMG covers the mapping of “current models” of health and social care across Scotland and producing a “high level road map for delivery” of the National Care Service.
It also covers supporting “options development” and highlighting “implementation gap[s]”.
Scottish Labour’s social care spokesperson Paul O’Kane said the contract being awarded to KPMG was “deeply worrying”.
He said: “Work on the National Care Service has only just begun and it is already being parcelled off to the private sector.
“Not only is more and more public money going straight into the pockets of these private sector giants, but they are being given a unique chance to shape the future of our National Care Service at a time when many unpaid carers feel ignored by this Government.”
A Scottish Government said: “The National Care Service will be the most significant change in public services since the establishment of the National Health Service … at its core will be human rights and person-led care and support that focuses on positive outcomes for individuals across Scotland.
“The decision was made to procure specialist services to support the development of the business case and operating models for the NCS, and this will provide a baseline and framework on which we will build the new system.”