NHS Covid-19 Test and Trace app

NHS test and trace app

Earlier this week, the NHS COVID-19 app has been made widely available to download to anyone with a SMART phone. Some of you may have already downloaded and be using. 

There is no mandatory requirement to download and use and it can be stopped and deleted at any time.  Its hope is to assist the public to better self-manage the spread of COVID19.  Further information of its intended use can be found here NHS COVID-19 app and information.

Effective use of the app for our staff!

Here at EEAST, firstly it is important that if anyone has signs or symptoms of COVID-19, they continue to report through the current internal reporting systems through their line management and COVID Leads HERE   and not the NHS App.

It is hoped that the app will alert you if you have had contact with a positive case.  Unfortunately it is not intelligent to know if your contact happened at work; when you have worn the correct PPE and adhered to all social distancing messages and hand hygiene or whether the contact was outside of this safe working environment.

As a result, there is a real risk that if the app is not paused whilst working in a clinically safe environment, it is possible the alert will advise you to self-isolate when it is not necessary.

Therefore, to assist you if you decide to use the app and receive an alert, please following the guidance in the document below.

How best to use the app whilst at work in a clinically safe environment  

If you are intending to use the NHS App, please ensure that you turn the app off when you arrive at your workplace and turn it on again when they leave to go home. 

This means that the app, whilst useful for information outside of work, will be unnecessary for use during the course of a shift and may cause staff to be notified as a contact to self-isolate, when in fact they were at work, maintaining good social distancing, hand hygiene or wearing PPE with a patient, so no need to isolate.

This is achieved by opening the app and selecting the toggle switch, labelled as ‘Contact tracing’, then selecting the time frame to switch off the app. This will prevent you being notified regarding positive patient contacts.

What if I get a notification?

If you receive a notification instructing you to self-isolate, only the timeframe for isolation will be stipulated which may elude to the day the contact was made, however this will not enable you to know a specific time or person contacted.

Therefore, to ensure the correct decision around whether self-isolation is made based on the information known, it’s really important that staff should contact their manager if they receive a notification to confirm whether the contact was during healthcare provision to determine that are required to isolate in line with the NHS App guidance provided.

What else dose the App do?

Trace - Get alerted if you have been near other app users that have tested positive for coronavirus.

Alert - Lets you know the level of coronavirus risk in your postcode and district.

Check-in - Get alerted if you have visited a venue where you may have come into contact with coronavirus.

Symptoms - Check if you have coronavirus symptoms and see if you need to order a free test.

Test - Helps you book a test and get your result.

Isolate – Keeps track of your self-isolation countdown and access relevant advice.

Published 25th September 2020


Message on behalf of David Cunningham

Hi Jen,

Thank you for your question, unfortunately this is not information that is available to the Trust so not something we would be able to provide.

07 October 2020

Message on behalf of David Cunningham

Hi Rob,

Apologies for the delay in responding.
The NHS Test & Trace App is a great tool to support contact tracing in relation to COVID-19 and for helping to identify potential contacts, and the more people who use it the more effective it will be.
However, there are also known challenges and limitations to the effectiveness of the App in certain circumstances. These challenges are acknowledged by NHS England and their advice is for healthcare workers to switch off contact tracing within the App when working in healthcare environments. This is within the App FAQ section, linked here https://faq.covid19.nhs.uk/article/KA-01100/en-us.

The App is unable to determine if you are working safely behind a protective screen or wearing suitable PPE and protected from others. So, in these scenarios if the App was switched on and you were in contact with an individual who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 the app would deem you as a close contact and alert you to isolate. However, this would not be necessary as you were adopting appropriate control measures and protection.

The data held by the app is anonymous and users are not informed who or specifically where/ when the contact has taken place. So if you forget to switch the app off at work and have contact with a positive patient whilst wearing the correct PPE, the app will alert you to this and you will be required to self-isolate. There is no way of knowing whether that contact was due to the positive patient, whilst wearing PPE, or somewhere else. If you consider this in the scenario of treating COVID positive patients whilst wearing PPE, this could result in high numbers of staff having to isolate unnecessarily resulting in a reduced level of response to our patients because the app does not know that they were wearing PPE during the contact. This is why it is important that we follow the guidance from NHS and PHE in following the working safely guidance and switching the app off whilst at work.

You are correct, in that many of the occasions we are faced with in the ambulance service and our working day, it isn’t possible to maintain 2m social distancing in some of the work that we do and environments we must work in. Which is why we need to wear the correct PPE and follow the correct control measures to minimise the risk. This emphasises the need to switch the app off whilst we are in the workplace and following the working safely control measures.

The Trust has an effective contact tracing procedure in place and working safely measures for all areas. If any staff develop COVID symptoms this is reported to their line manager and we undertake contact tracing to establish all of the contacts and then follow the Test & Trace procedure to ensure that any close contacts are isolated accordingly.
Finally, I appreciate the concern over not reporting symptoms in the app, it is important to report symptoms through your line manager to ensure we complete the Test & Trace function, but there is no reason why you should not report through the app as well.

With regards to the PPE not eliminating the risk, you are correct the risk is not fully eliminated by wearing PPE alone however the guidance from the experts is that the levels of PPE within the guidance are appropriate and effective to adequately reduce the risk of transmission when used correctly.

07 October 2020

Whilst I agree with the logic of turning it off whilst at work, given the number of patients we see, we do not get any feedback as to the Covid status of any of our patients. I think we should be informed if any patient we have been with does test positive once at hospital. Is this data something that the trust can start to provide us with?
02 October 2020


Just a few queries.

Whilst it is clear as to why we should inform our line management, why are we not to also input the information into the NHS app?

Has whoever written this guidance rehearsed the practicalities of this guidance? I would like to see how, in the ambulance service you were able to maintain 2 meters social distancing, whilst performing a patient assessment and maintain 2 meters social distancing whilst in the back of an ambulance with a patient?

Does EEAST not think it would be useful to know if a staff member has been in contact with anyone who has been tested positive for covid-19? Surely the more data we gather the better? and surely it is better for us to know so we can have the choice as to how we protect our families? why would you want to take that staff and family safety choice away?

Please define clinically safe? we know the current PPE guidance does not stop you getting covid, it only reduces the risk. The majority of us wear the appropriate PPE whilst outside of work too. Does that mean that those of us that wear the appropriate PPE and take the other precautions outside of work not use the app, or maybe we should use the app at work as it is impossible to take all of the precautions whilst at work?

What come first for EEAST, staff safety or patient safety? I'm sure patients would not want covid positive patients visiting them in their already unwell state.

In summary I won't be turning my app off. We should use every tool we have to keep infections at a manageable level. One of those tools is the new NHS app.

01 October 2020

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