From 26th September, everyone over the age of 16 who is registered with a GP in England, and has provided an email address or phone number to the NHS, received an email or SMS asking them to download the NHS COVID-19 app.
Emails came from NHS Test and Trace COVID-19 App with ‘Public Health Message: NHS COVID-19 App’ as the subject.
Text messages came from NHStracing and begin ‘This is a public health message from NHS Test and Trace.'
The message was deemed to be an essential part of dealing with a public health emergency. It was done to help inform and encourage the use of the NHS COVID-19 app, a new tool which will help users to protect their own health, and the health of those they care about. The Secretary of State decided that sending emails and text messages to individuals was a necessary and proportionate approach.
The data came from the central NHS database which stores demographic information, called PDS. The Secretary of State asked NHS Digital to use the mobile phone numbers and emails for registered patients over the age of 16, so that the public health message could be sent. Whenever there is a request to use NHS data, an assessment is made to ensure that it is legal and safe to do so.
Email addresses and phone numbers are used by NHS Digital as a Processor (and Gov Notify as a Sub-Processor) on behalf of DHSC to send the messages. DHSC will not receive the data directly. Gov Notify will receive phone numbers to send text messages on behalf of NHS Digital.
Beware of scams. The contact-tracing service will only call you from 0300 013 5000 or send you a text message or email from ‘NHStracing’. You will never be asked to dial a premium rate number, make a payment, provide your bank details, or provide other personal information such as your social media identities or login details.