The NHS Covid-19 app didn’t cost £37 billion

21 February 2024
What was claimed

The NHS Covid-19 app cost £37 billion.

Our verdict

False. The app cost a small proportion of this. £37 billion is the total budget for the first two years of the entire Test and Trace programme.

Posts falsely claiming that the government spent “£37 billion on a Covid Test & Trace app” are still being shared on Facebook and on X (formerly Twitter).

We have written about this claim many, many times before. In fact, the NHS Covid-19 app, which closed down in April 2023, cost only a fraction of £37 billion. The £37 billion figure represents the total budget for the first two years of the entire NHS Test and Trace programme, most of which was spent on testing people for Covid.

The estimated lifetime cost of the NHS Test and Trace programme was about £29.3 billion as of June 2022, according to the National Audit Office.

The app itself was a small part of this, costing about £35 million in 2020/21.

Full Fact submitted a Freedom of Information request last year to establish the final cost of the Covid-19 app, but the UK Health Security Agency told us it could not give the exact cost for the app specifically.

It said: “Spending on the NHS Covid-19 app was spread across a number of government departments and organisations; which departments and organisations were involved varied at different points in time. Staff working on the app often worked on multiple projects or products, and contracts were set up to support numerous activities rather than just the app. It is therefore not possible to establish the true cost of spending on the app alone, disaggregated from spending on other workstreams.

“You may find it of interest to know that the Covid-19 App was brought forward to UKHSA on 1 October 2021 as a capital asset of £5,882,727. The total direct costs on the app for UKHSA between 1 October 2021 and March 2023 were £5,577,014.”

False information can spread widely on social media, and may harm democracy if it misleads people about the government’s performance.

Image courtesy of NHSX

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