NHS Digital contact tracing App to save lives

Technology can potentially be life-saving when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, and because of this the NHS is launching a contact-tracing app. The process of contact tracing can be very tedious and not very efficient, but the app will automate the process and hopefully stop the spread of the virus by alerting people who have been in contact with the virus. This will help them act to protect themselves and in turn protect their loved ones and the NHS.

The app will help all the elements of traditional tracing be more seamless and help those who are more vulnerable and those who don’t have access to digital tools.

The public will be able to keep their families safe and make a difference in the community with the use of this app. Research evidence gathered by mathematical modelers, epidemiologists and ethicists at Oxford University’s Nuffield Departments of Medicine and Population Health, was used when the app was designed. The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy to log the distance between phones who also have the app installed.

If an app user suspects that they have COVID-19 symptoms, they can choose to alert the NHS and the App will then anonymously alert the other users who were near that person in the previous days

The app will advise all persons who were close to a person with suspected Covid-19 of what actions to take like self-isolation. More exact advice will depend on several factors, and the whole process is still being fine-tuned using science and will have to be approved by the Chief Medical Officer.

People will be able to volunteer more information to the NHS helping them treat and respond to the spread based on information gathered by citizens. The data will be protected and only ever used for NHS care, evaluation, management and research. The law will always be complied to, and users can delete the App and any information captured on it at any time.

Security and privacy are crucial to the NHS, so as part of their transparency the key security, the source code and privacy designs will be published so that privacy experts will have an opportunity to take a more in depth look and help ensure the security of the app and data is of the highest standards.

The NHS have been consulting with the National Data Guardian’s Panel,  the representatives from Understanding Patient Data and the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation to ensure the urgency of releasing the App doesn’t compromise their commitment to transparency. The NHS have established an ethics advisory board for the app which will be chaired by Professor Sir Jonathan Montgomery from University College London.

User-testing is underway, and the public’s input and suggestions is vital to the success of the app and tackling the virus. The app has the potential to save many lives if the information provided by it is adhered to and if people work together to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

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