NHS Test and Trace cost £13.5 billion in its first year

5 August 2021
What was claimed

Track and Trace is costing UK taxpayers £37 billion.

Our verdict

That is the service’s budget for the first two years. In its first year, it spent £13.5 billion.

What was claimed

The Channel Tunnel cost £12 billion to build in today’s money.

Our verdict

We’ve seen varying estimates but this is probably about correct.

A photo on Facebook claiming that “Westminster’s “Track & Trace” system” is costing £37 billion, and building the Channel Tunnel only cost £12 billion, has gone viral on Facebook

How much has Test and Trace cost so far?

£37 billion was budgeted for NHS Test and Trace (sometimes incorrectly referred to as Track and Trace) in its first two years. That amount hasn’t been spent yet.

NHS Test and Trace spent £13.5 billion up to April 2021, and its budget for that year was £22.2 billion.

According to a National Audit Office report on its progress, this £8.7 billion underspend was primarily due to the fact that “the high level of demand for testing forecast for January and February 2021 did not materialise, in part due to national lockdown measures.”

NHS Test and Trace is not just the NHS Covid-19 app. It also covers testing services, ‘contain’ activities’ (including identifying local outbreaks and supporting local responses to the pandemic), and tracing services.

The post also says Test and Trace was “originally built on an outdated Microsoft Excel spreadsheet”. This seems to be a reference to reports last October that nearly 16,000 coronavirus cases in England went unreported because an old type of Excel file was used to log cases. 

The BBC reported that this was due to Public Health England’s developers, who chose this format to pull data into a central system which was then made available to the NHS Test and Trace team.

How much did the Channel Tunnel cost? 

As for the Channel Tunnel, we’ve written before about how estimates on the cost to build vary. 

The Eurostar website says “The total cost [of the Channel Tunnel] came at an eye-watering £4.65 billion which would be the equivalent of £12 billion in today's money.”

The posts also say that it took six years and 13,000 workers to build the Channel Tunnel, which is correct according to the website.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as missing context because £37 billion is NHS Test and Trace’s two year budget, not how much it has cost already—so far it’s spent £13.5 billion.

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