What is the NHS test & trace service?

On the 27 May, the Department of Health and Social Care published guidance about how the NHS test and trace service will work. The service may contact you if you have tested positive for coronavirus. Or you have been in contact with someone else who has symptoms. They are contacting people by text, email or phone.

We know that some people may have problems using the phone or email. For example, some people who live with paranoid schizophrenia, psychosis or severe anxiety. So, we have summarised below how you can tell if it is a genuine call. And given you information on what the service will ask you.

Why are the government introducing the NHS test and trace service?

The government are introducing this service to help them trace the spread of the coronavirus and isolate new infections. It will also help the government to see if the number of people infected with coronavirus is increasing again.

What will the NHS test and trace service do?

The NHS test and trace service:

  • ensures that anyone who develops symptoms of coronavirus can quickly be tested to find out if they have the virus.
  • targets testing of NHS and social care staff and care home residents who might not be showing symptoms of the coronavirus, and
  • helps trace close recent contacts of anyone who tests positive for coronavirus. And, if necessary, notifies them that they must self-isolate at home to help stop the spread of the virus.

How can I tell if it is the NHS track and trace service that are contacting me?

All texts or emails will say that they are from the NHS. The text or email will ask you to sign into the NHS test and trace contact-tracing website.

If NHS test and trace service calls you by phone, they will use a single phone number: 0300 013 5000.

I have developed symptoms of coronavirus. What should I do?

You need to self-isolate. You can find more details about the symptoms of coronavirus, and what ‘self-isolate’ means by going to: www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-how-it-works#how-nhs-test-and-trace-service-works

You should order a testing kit immediately. You can do this at: www.nhs.uk/coronavirus.

If you are an essential worker or an employer, you can get a testing kit at the following websites:

 Or you can call 119 if you have no internet access.

I have tested positive for coronavirus. Will the NHS track and trace service contact me?

Yes. You will be contacted by someone called a contact tracer. They will ask you:

  • to sign into the NHS test and trace contact-tracing website
  • for your full name and date of birth to confirm your identity, and postcode to offer you support while you are self-isolating,
  • about any coronavirus symptoms you have been experiencing,
  • if you have family members or other household members living with you,
  • if you have had any close contact with anyone other than members of your household. They will want to know about people you have been in contact with in the 48 hours before you developed symptoms and the time since you developed symptoms.
  • if you work in, or have recently been to, a setting with other people. For example, a GP surgery, a school or a workplace,
  • to provide the names and contact details of the people you have had close contact with.


What does ‘close contact’ mean?

Close contact means:

  • having face-to-face contact with someone who was less than 1 metre away from you,
  • spending more than 15 minutes within 2 metres of someone
  • travelling in a car or other small vehicle with someone even if the journey was short. Or if you have been close to someone on a plane.

Why are they asking these questions?

The NHS test and trace service need to decide whether people you have been in contact with are at risk of catching the coronavirus from you.

They will assess the information you have given and decide whether they need to let your contacts know and ask them to self-isolate.

Will they give my name or details to the people I have been in close contact with?

No. They will not give your personal or medical information to your contacts. Your own details, any information you provide, will be held in strict confidence.  It will be kept and used only in line with data protection laws.

I am worried about fraudsters pretending to be from the NHS track and trace service. How can I tell that the call is genuine?

Contact tracers will never:

  • ask you to dial a premium rate number to speak to us. Premium numbers usually start with 09 or 087,
  • ask you to make any form of payment or purchase a product of any kind,
  • ask for any details about your bank account,
  • ask for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts,
  • ask you for any passwords or PINs. Or ask you to set up any passwords or PINs over the phone,
  • ask you to download any software to your PC or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet to anyone else, or
  • ask you to access any website that does not belong to the government or NHS.

If you are asked to do any of the things above, please hang up immediately. You can contact Action Fraud to report the fraud: www.actionfraud.police.uk/reporting-fraud-and-cyber-crime.

My mental health condition makes it difficult for me to talk on the phone or use the internet. What can I do?

You can explain to the contact tracer that your mental health makes it difficult for you to speak on the phone or use the internet. You can ask them to put ‘reasonable adjustments’ in place to help you use their service.

For example, if you live with someone you trust you can ask the contact tracer to speak to them. You will need to give your consent for the contact tracer to do this. Or you could ask them to call at another time when a carer or friend is with you.

You can read more about reasonable adjustments at: www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/rights-restrictions/mental-health-laws/discrimination-and-mental-health/

I have been contacted by the NHS test and trace service. They have told me that I’ve been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus. How do I know that it is genuine?

The service will contact you by text message or email. This will come from the ‘NHS’.

If they don’t get a response, the service will phone you from the number: 0300 013 5000. If they only have your landline number, they will contact you on that number, not your mobile.

If you have internet access, they will ask you to log onto the NHS test and trace contact-tracing website. The website will give you the information you need and the opportunity to ask any questions. The online service will also ask you to confirm that you are following the advice on self-isolation.

Please see guidance above for other questions that contact tracers may ask you. And what they won’t ask you.

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