• PwC said it had to consider its own “financial health” in offering a 20 per cent discount on fees, rather than pro bono work
  • The offer only covers the first £20m in fees, HSJ can reveal
  • PwC said it was providing services “at a discount”, and did some work pro bono

A Big Four accountancy firm responded to an NHS request for pro bono support by saying it would offer its management consultants’ time at a 20 per cent discount, but only up to the value of £20m.

HSJ has seen a document showing PwC’s response to a call for companies to say what work they could do to help the NHS cope with the covid-19 pandemic.

NHS England’s request for offers of services said firms should “note any estimated costs for offers” and: “We also welcome detail of pro bono offers, if any.”

While some companies offered to do work for free or at cost price, according to information seen by HSJ, PwC’s response said it had to be “mindful of the impact of these discounted rates on our own financial health”.

Equity partners in the firm receive an average pay of more than £750,000, although in the healthcare business it is lower, at around £600,000.

The company’s response to the NHS request in April said PwC had 40 partners and 700 staff working across its UK health and life science business.

The size of the threshold gives an indication of how much consultancy firms expect to make from public sector work during the pandemic.

The authors of the PwC response to the NHS said: “As set out in our letter to John Manzoni (permanent secretary for the Cabinet Office), we have agreed to provide support to projects directly relating to covid-19 response at a significantly reduced rate (20 per cent reduction to our Management Consultancy Framework 2 (MCF2)) rates.

“Our board has approved £20m of work in aggregate to be undertaken at these discounted rates across our covid-19 public sector engagements.”

But it added that because it is “a strategic supplier” to government, the discount was only valid up to that £20m threshold.

PwC is one of the “Big Four” international accountancy firms and last year reported a revenue of £950m in its UK consulting arm, with overall profits across the UK firm rising 8.7 per cent to more than £1bn.

The Cabinet Office said it had received the letter which PwC refers to, to Mr Manzoni, on 21 March.

PwC submitted five different bids for covid work under the NHS England-run health systems support framework, ranging from two social care “audit tools” to “strategy and operational demand and capacity planning” using the company’s “epidemiologists, data analysts and clinical specialists, all with significant NHS experience”.

It is not known what work, if any, PwC has undertaken for the NHS or wider public sector in response to covid-19.

Rivals from “big four” accountancy firms have been awarded significant national contracts, including the development of the Nightingale temporary hospitals (KPMG), and major aspects of the protective equipment procurement and testing programmes (Deloitte). Korn Ferry are believed to be involved in the test and trace programme, as is Serco. It is not known how these contracts were let or agreed, however, nor what value of work has been carried out under the arrangements.

PwC’s submission to NHS England said it had “the largest and most experienced health advisory practice in the UK” and that examples of its work earlier in the outbreak included with “one of NHS England/Improvement’s regional teams to rapidly identify capacity and map to covid-19 demand” and “strategic coordination centre for London’s covid-19 response to deliver a proportional and scalable plan for services to address the impact of covid-19 to mitigate the impact on public services.”

A PwC spokeswoman said in a statement: “We are committed to supporting the critical work of the public sector in tackling the covid-19 crisis, where our skills can make a positive difference.

“We are providing a range of services to the government and public sector, including the NHS and local authorities, at a discount to the usual government agreed rates.”

She added: “This is alongside other support such as pro bono work in conjunction with Helpforce”. Asked what other pro bono work the company did, it said: ”There is other pro bono work but no other examples we wish to provide.”