NHS Contact Tracing App is "Not a Priority" Anymore So That Was a Massive Waste of Time

By Shabana Arif on at

The NHS contact tracing app is a mess, which you may have picked up on from our coverage of it so far; and now it's not going to see the light of day before winter - if it launches at all.

After a couple of delays, we were expecting to see the NHSX's app roll out next month after reported issues with Bluetooth which the app relies on to function. But after a lot of grandstanding about how it's our "civic duty" to buy into the entire track and trace ecosystem - and threats about noncompliance from the healthcare system's championMan Cock Matt Hancock - no one can be arsed anymore so it's being pushed back to winter.

Lord Bethell, the Minister for Innovation at the Department of Health and Social Care, said the app's trial on the Isle of Wight went swimmingly - which doesn't sound accurate, but alright - adding that residents preferred the human contact tracing system to the app, which is one of the reasons it's being potentially shelved.

"We are seeking to get something going for the winter, but it isn't the priority for us at the moment...

"There is a danger of it being too technological and relying too much on text and emails, and alienating or freaking out people - because you're peddling quite alarming news through quite casual communication."

The app popped up on Google Play Store yesterday and was able to be downloaded; it displayed a message saying it only works on the Isle of Wight, so clearly that was a balls-up, as suspected. Lord Bethell also 'fessed up to the struggles around developing the app, but that time isn't of the essence because the virus isn't as big of a worry anymore apparently, even though we're still at COVID Alert Level 4 which is where we started off the pandemic.

"We're not feeling under great time pressure, and therefore we're focusing on getting the right app.

"I won't hide from you that there are technical challenges with getting the app right, and we are really keen to make sure that we get all aspects of it correct.

"If we didn't quite get it right the first time round, we might poison the pool and close down a really important option for the future."

It's far from being 'right', so they can polish that turn all they like - unless they switch to Apple/Google's API, it's going to continue to be shit. Behind the scenes, NHSX project leads on the app - Matthew Gould and Geraint Lewis - have stepped away, which was happening this month anyway, but the expectation was that the app would be out in the world by now. Simon Thompson, a former Apple exec and current chief product officer Ocado, is joining the Test and Trace team, with the app being one of the areas he'll have to focus on. [BBC News]