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.
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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