Labour MP wrongly claims £37bn spent on Test and Trace app

18 November 2022
What was claimed

£37 billion was spent on the NHS Track and Trace app.

Our verdict

This figure was the total budget allocated to NHS Test and Trace over the first two years on the pandemic. In the first year of the pandemic the vast majority of spending went on testing, with £35 million spent on the app.

Anybody else remember the £37 Billion @MattHancock and @BorisJohnson et al blew on the Covid track and trace app that had to be binned? Never forget, never forgive.

Labour MP Karl Turner recently claimed on Twitter that former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former health secretary Matt Hancock “blew” £37 billion on the NHS Test and Trace app.  

As we have written a number of times before, this is not true. This figure was the budget for the entire NHS Test and Trace scheme in its first two years—not just the app—and the full budget was not used. 

After being contacted by Full Fact, Mr Turner tweeted a correction clarifying that £37 billion was the total budget for Test and Trace, not just what was spent on the app. 

The correction said: “To clarify, £37bn was the total test and trace budget, not what was spent on the app alone (aprox. £35m). 

“These comments, which were not a deliberate attempt to mislead and which I am glad to correct, were on the Government's overall poor response to Covid-19.”

While the original tweet has not been deleted and has now been shared more than 2,000 times, the correction has just over 10 shares at the time of writing.

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What is Test & Trace?

NHS Test and Trace was set up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and included testing services, ‘contain’ activities (including identifying local outbreaks and supporting local responses), tracing services, as well as the NHS Covid-19 app. 

The government allocated a total of £22 billion to the programme in 2020/21, and a further £15 billion in 2021/22, or £37 billion in total. 

The most recent figures produced by the National Audit Office (NAO) show that, as of the June 2022 update, £25.7 billion had reportedly been spent on NHS Test and Trace as a whole, with an estimated lifetime cost of £29.3 billion.  

A report produced by the NAO showed that in 2020/21, the vast majority of the £13.5 billion was accounted for by testing (£10.4 billion). A comparatively small amount—£35 million—was spent on the app over the same period. 

It should be noted that the NAO breakdown of spending only covers the first year of the pandemic. Comparable figures for 2021/22 have not yet been published, and it appears that the NAO is not currently working on a further report on more recent figures. 

Image courtesy of Chris McAndrew

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