Test and Trace app cost much less than £37 billion

24 March 2023
What was claimed

The UK Government spent £37 billion on the Test and Trace app.

Our verdict

This is the total budget for the entire NHS Test and Trace programme in its first two years. The app itself cost around £35 million in the 2020-21 financial year.

Several social media posts on Facebook and Twitter have wrongly claimed that £37 billion was spent on the NHS Covid-19 app.

One post says: “£37 billion for a phone app and it didn’t get used or work”. 

The actual cost of the app was about £35 million in its first year, which is about one thousandth of £37 billion. That larger figure refers to the budget for the whole test and trace programme in its first two years.

Inaccurate claims about the Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic have spread widely on social media, and can damage trust in politics.

The £37 billion figure has been misused frequently on social media, as we’ve written several times previously. It was also once used by a Labour MP, who corrected himself after being contacted by Full Fact. 

Honesty in public debate matters

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Where did ‘£37 billion’ come from?

The £37 billion figure refers to the total budget allocated to NHS Test and Trace in its first two years.

A National Audit Office (NAO) interim report in December 2020 said that the Government allocated £22 billion to the test, trace, contain and enable programme in 2020-21, with a further £15 billion for 2021-22.

However, not all of that money was used, and only a fraction of it was spent on the NHS Covid-19 app.

According to the NAO, as of June 2022 approximately £25.7 billion had actually been spent on the entire Test and Trace programme, with an estimated lifetime cost of £29.3 billion.

The NAO said that of the approximately £13.5 billion spent on the NHS Test and Trace programme in 2020-21 only £35 million was spent on the app.  

The vast majority of the spending in that year was accounted for by testing (£10.4 billion).

The NAO has not yet published a report for 2021-22.

Image courtesy of John Cameron

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