BORDERERS BEWARE! If, like many who live and work on either side of the Scotland-England border, you have sensibly downloaded to your smartphones BOTH nations’ NHS test-and-trace apps in the belief you are doubly protected you are fooling yourselves.
Vulnerable and aged residents of far north England and deep south Scotland are at risk because the ‘NHS Scotland’ and England’s ‘NHS COVID-19’ apps switch each other off.
Users may not be aware that they must manually override the systems by choosing one or the other, depending on which side of the Tweed they currently stand; the English app will not work in Scotland and the Scottish app does not work in England.
The English app, now available free in England and Wales, boasts it is “is the fastest way to see if you’re at risk from coronavirus. The faster you know, the quicker you can alert and protect your loved ones and community.”
The app has a number of tools, including contact tracing and local area alerts which, it says, are “vital in the fight against coronavirus”.
The Scottish app, recommended to thousands of English patients whose closest surgery is based in Scotland, makes the same claims – but they cancel each other out once the border is crossed.
Once the user is in Scotland, the English app turns off and warns: “Another app on your phone is using the same technology and is stopping this app from working.”
Once back on the south side of the border the Scottish app goes dead with the unhelpful message: “Tracing is not active at the moment but you can fix this later.”
In my experience, this particularly affects potentially hundreds of people living in north Northumberland and in (English) and the villages thereabout, who are often registered with surgeries on the opposite side of the border.
Letters from NHS Scotland advised that they should download the Scottish app; meanwhile, their places of residence and national advertising makes the English app available.
One user (full disclosure: my wife, Gemma, who is registered as am I with our closest surgery five miles away in Coldstream, Scotland) said: “It seems ridiculous that they can’t get their act together and share information.
“I cross the border several times a week for shopping and to go rambling as well as for medical appointments and I thought that having both apps on my smartphone kept me safe and contactable by the NHS wherever I was. But apparently not!”
NHS England was contacted for an explanation but has not yet responded.