People's COVID Inquiry

Profiteering from the people's health?

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Episode notes

A striking feature of the government’s pandemic response has been contracting out COVID related services to private companies. This has been without the usual tendering processes and any transparency around contract details including costs. Despite a number of contracts failing spectacularly (e.g. NHS Test and Trace) and some pre-COVID contracts such as NHS Logistics being exposed as wholly inadequate, public contract funding has been differentially awarded to Conservative party donors and close contacts.

We will hear about the reliance on and scale of private contracts during the pandemic, and the level of pre-pandemic outsourcing and privatisation. How did this contribute to the failures in response? We will hear about legal challenges on behalf of the taxpayer in relation to COVID contracts – one important example being the successful challenge on the Palantir contract. And from staff experience, the dangers and anxieties of shortage of PPE and the relation to decisions to outsource contracts. We have previously heard from family members directly affected by COVID.

GUEST APPEARANCE (opening the session):

Michael Rosen | author, poet, broadcaster and former UK Children's Laureate


​Michael Mansfield QC (chair), Professor Neena Modi, Dr. Tolullah Oni, Dr. Jacky Davis

Lorna Hackett Barrister (Counsel to the Inquiry)



David McCoy | Professor of Global Health Medicine, Institute of Population Health Sciences, QMUL; Centre for Health and the Public Interest

Dr David Wrigley | GP in Carnforth, North Lancs, Deputy Chair BMA, co-author ‘NHS for Sale’ and ‘NHS SOS

Rosa Curling | Lawyer, co-founder of Foxglove campaigning against misuse of digital data & technology; formerly of Leigh Day Solicitors

Dr Michelle Dawson | NHS Consultant Anaesthetist, trustee Healthcare Workers’ Foundation charity (previously ‘Heroes’)

‘The independent sector has played a critical role in helping us get through the crisis and will play a critical role in future … That has put to bed any lingering, outdated arguments about a split between public and private in healthcare. We could not have got through the crisis without the combined teamwork of the public and private sectors' 

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, August 2020

‘Despite the unimaginable resources thrown at this project, test and trace cannot point to a measurable difference to the progress of the pandemic, and the promise on which this huge expense was justified – avoiding another lockdown – has been broken, twice.’

Meg Hillier, Chair Commons Public Accounts Committee, 6 March 2021


‘There is no clear evidence to judge NHS test and trace’s overall effectiveness. It is unclear whether its specific contribution to reducing infection levels … has justified its cost [£37bn].’     

Public Accounts Committee. Feb 2021

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