Once again, the United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS) COVID-19 app is the subject of criticism after a major issue prevented users from uploading their test results. Earlier this year, the developers struggled with accuracy challenges after the restrictions within iOS interfered with its functionalities. After a period of what appeared to be crawling development progress, it eventually launched earlier this month. Now, amid the British government's attempt to increase testing, users have reported problems during the upload process which would likely affect results.
The data would ideally be beneficial for health ministers to have an overview of the number of active cases to better manage their resources in the fight against the pandemic. The Independent pointed out that the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) claimed it has addressed the flaw. According to reports, people who were tested for SARS-CoV-2 at Public Health England labs and at NHS hospital were unable to submit their results. This would evidently affect the tracking procedure which could lead to inaccuracies.
Given that the primary purpose of the NHS COVID-19 app is to enhance contact tracing efforts, this is a considerable oversight on the part of those overseeing the project. Following the controversial failure of the "Operation Moonshot" mass testing proposed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, this is another setback that might lead to a public outcry. Moreover, this would prompt others to view the technology as unreliable in a real-world scenario compared to simulations.
"It exemplifies precisely why test and trace continues to fail: the divorce between the new privatised testing system and NHS/Public Health structures," said government adviser Professor Stephen Reicher on social media. "So, fix the app. But that won't be enough. We need a rapid reset of testing more generally. No more centralised privatised cronyism. Rebuild the system based on trusted local NHS and Public Health."
Meanwhile, those who have attempted to upload their test results once more after the purported "fix" over the weekend claim a problem still exists. It seems the NHS COVID-19 app only allows users to upload test results that are positive. For now, folks with negative results are unable to update their accounts. However, the DHSC noted that the features are not available right now but might be added in the future.