NHS COVID-19 App
Technology has the potential to save lives and to help the country deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Contact tracing is a tried and tested method used to slow down the spread of infectious diseases. The NHS COVID-19 App automates the process of contact tracing. Its goal is to reduce the transmission of the virus by alerting people who may have been exposed to the infection so they can take action to protect themselves, the people they care about and the NHS. We believe this app could be important in helping the country return to normality and beating coronavirus.
The NHS COVID-19 App will be part of a wider approach that includes manual and web-based contact tracing coupled with virology swab testing. We are working hard to make sure that all of these components are fully joined up, to make the system as seamless as possible for members of the public and to ensure the app complements more traditional measures. This coordinated approach will help protect vulnerable groups, including those who cannot or do not want to use digital tools.
We are launching the first phase of the integrated contact tracing and testing programme on the Isle of Wight. This programme will play a central role in how the UK manages the rate of COVID-19 transmission alongside restrictions on social distancing.
More information about the NHS COVID-19 App is available on the dedicated website - covid19.nhs.uk
Data and Privacy
The app has been designed with privacy in mind. The app does not collect personally identifiable data from users. Users will always remain anonymous. The anonymous data collected by the NHS COVID-19 App will only ever be used for NHS care, management, evaluation and research.
Users will always be able to delete the NHS COVID-19 App whenever they want. We will always comply with the law around the use of data, including the Data Protection Act, and we will explain how we intend to use the data.
We will be open and transparent about the choices in the app and what they mean. If we make any changes to how the app works over time, we will explain in plain English why those changes were made and what they mean for people.
Privacy is crucial to the NHS, and so while these are unusual times, we are acutely aware of our obligations to people. Just as the NHS strives at all times to keep health records confidential, so it will keep the app data secure.
In this blog post, Ian Levy of the National Cyber Security Centre, explains more about the security behind the app and how it will help us fight the coronavirus while protecting privacy and security.
Engaging independent advice on ethics
The use of technology will also give rise to questions relating to ethics, privacy and security, and it is important that these are properly explored and addressed. That is why we have established an independent Ethics Advisory Board.
The Chair and existing members, who are not remunerated, are working on recruiting new members to ensure appropriate diversity and expertise. We have published the current membership of the Board together with the terms of reference.
We have Open Sourced the code behind the new NHS COVID-19 app.
The code is available via GitHub.