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Shambles as NHS Covid-19 app can’t accept test results from NHS hospitals

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The government’s new NHS Covid-19 app has come under fire after it emerged it can’t accept results of tests carried out in NHS hospitals or Public Health England labs.

The situation has been branded “a whole new level of absurdity” – with people unable to share their results anonymously with close contacts.

Just two days ago Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed the app – launched four months later than promised – was an “important step forward” in the fight against the virus.

It uses Bluetooth signals to identify close contacts, and alerts them if someone they’ve been close to tests positive for coronavirus.

Or at least, that’s the theory.

And in another flaw with the app, it has emerged that people are unable to enter negative results – meaning a self-isolation countdown does not stop.

It has been available for download in England and Wales since Thursday.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it is aware of the issue and “urgently working” to resolve it.

It came to light after the official app’s Twitter account posted: “If your test took place in a Public Health England lab or NHS hospital, or as part of national surveillance testing conducted by the Office for National Statistics, test results cannot currently be linked with the app whether they’re positive or negative.”

The tweet came in response to a user who said they had a test and wanted to enter the result in the app but had been asked for a code, which they said they did not get with their test result.

Labour MP Tracy Brabin posted: “An NHS app that doesn’t link with NHS track and trace? If true, we are at a whole new level of absurdity.”

And shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth wrote: “We all want to see this app succeed. We’ve encouraged people to download it.

“But have they really launched an app that doesn’t actually link to tests carried out by NHS hospital labs & PHE labs instead only including tests carried out via the outsourced lighthouse lab network??”

Currently, the results of tests booked through the app are automatically recorded, a spokeswoman at DHSC said.

She said: “We are urgently working to enable positive tests for people who aren’t already given a code to be added to the Covid-19 App.

“NHS Test and Trace will continue to contact people by text, email or phone if your test is positive, advising you to self-isolate and for those who don’t have a code the contact tracers will shortly be able to provide codes to insert in the app.

“If you book your test via the app the results will be automatically recorded in the app and the isolation countdown will be updated.”

Those who report symptoms on the app are given a self-isolation countdown – but users say they do not get a code to cancel it if they didn’t book a test through the app.

Prof Deborah Ryan told the BBC: “That’s so confusing as the app doesn’t tell you that can’t enter negative test booked outside it.

“And the app still tells you to quarantine if you entered symptoms. So this means I can’t turn off the self-isolation alert in the app?”

On Friday, 210,375 tests were taken, with 61,481 handled by PHE and the NHS, or 29%.

That does not include tests taken as part of the ONS surveys because they are counted on a UK basis.

Tests taken in hospitals includes patients and health care
staff.

The NHS Covid-19, which was launched four months later than expected, uses Bluetooth signals to log when a
user is in close contact with another user, generally meaning within two metres for 15 minutes or more.

If someone then tests positive for Covid-19, they can share
the result anonymously with their close contacts, who will each receive an alert and will have to isolate for 14 days.

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