More than 20m people have downloaded the NHS COVID-19 app. Never before has government been able to communicate so immediately and directly with such a large share of the population. As the pandemic recedes, the app will no longer be needed for its original purpose. But there is an opportunity to develop it in different ways in the service of wider public health objectives, such as targeting preventive interventions, improving health services and access to care. These are set out in the solution.
The opportunity here is not just because of the app‚’s unprecedently large user base. It also derives from the fact we‚’re at a moment of extraordinary acceptance of the role of the state in people‚’s lives (illustrated, for example, by the widespread public support for lockdowns); a moment of profound gratitude to the NHS and those who work for it; and a moment of heightened awareness of the importance of keeping oneself in good physical and mental health. In particular, Ipsos MORI (State of the State 2020-21 report) found that ‚’the public increasingly trust the NHS with data more than any other part of the public sector and many private sector organisations‚’; that the NHS is the top priority by a wide margin in the list of public services that people would like to spend more public money on; and that the proportion of people who think that ‚’we should not share data [within government] as the risks to people‚’s privacy and security outweigh the benefits‚’ has fallen from 44% in 2014 to 37% in 2020.
Let‚’s use the shift in attitudes that‚’s happened over the last 12 months, and the 20m-strong user base of the NHS COVID-19 app, to make us a healthier society, and reduce pressure on the NHS and the public finances.