New contact tracing app welcome but government must ensure app works for the hardest hit groups Health Foundation response to government's announcement of new contact tracing app

13 August 2020

Responding to today’s government announcement on the trial of the latest version of its contact tracing app, part of the NHS Test and Trace service, Adam Steventon, Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, said:

Contact tracing apps have the potential to play a critical role in fighting the spread of coronavirus, and it is vitally important that this technology, and the wider test and trace system, are fit for purpose ahead of the winter. COVID-19 is taking a disproportionate toll on older people, people from specific black and minority ethnic groups and those who live in poorer areas. The government must ensure the redesigned app works for these hardest hit groups. 

‘Testing the app among different populations is an important step. The inclusion of the London Borough of Newham in the trial is very welcome. It is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the country, has a high population density and has significant areas of deprivation. Hopefully this trial will go some way to improving confidence among those people hardest hit by the pandemic that the app will help protect them and their communities.’

The Health Foundation has also called on the government to ensure that the trials are properly evaluated and that findings are shared. The ultimate test for the app is whether it increases the proportion of contacts that are traced by the Test and Trace service. Currently only 79% of people contacted by NHS Test and Trace are able to give information about their contacts, and only 75% of contacts can be reached.

Steventon added: ‘Evaluation is critical not only for building confidence in the app and the trials, but also for understanding and addressing the risk of unequal impact. False alerts might impact more severely on certain populations, for example those unable to work from home. The inclusion of Newham, which has been among the worst affected regions in the country, will be a critical test for the app and will help to understand how well the app works for people living in a densely populated urban area where options to reduce their exposure might be limited, for example due to overcrowded housing.’

Further reading


Three tests for the COVID-19 contact tracing app

29 May 2020

Adam Steventon sets out three key tests for the government's contact tracing app.

You might also like...


The Shuri Network and Health Foundation virtual lunch and learn


Join our lunch and learn session focused on empowering black, Asian and minority ethnic women in...

Press release

Over 200,000 more people are at risk of poor mental health this year due to unemployment

Press release

New analysis by the Health Foundation estimates that over 200,000 more people are at risk of poor...


Webinar: How will the public mood shape care after the pandemic?


This event, co-hosted with Ipsos MORI, looked at how public perceptions, expectations and priorities...

Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101 copy

Get social

What might long COVID mean for the nation's health? In our blog, the #COVID19ImpactInquiry team summarise emerging…

Follow us on Twitter
Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101

Work with us

We look for talented and passionate individuals as everyone at the Health Foundation has an important role to play.

View current vacancies
Artboard 101 copy 2

The Q community

Q is an initiative connecting people with improvement expertise across the UK.

Find out more