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Questions raised over how Newham pensioners can access NHS test and trace app

PUBLISHED: 07:00 03 September 2020

The NHS's latest test and trace app is being trialled in Newham and the Isle of Wight before it gets rolled out across the country. Picture: Jon King

The NHS's latest test and trace app is being trialled in Newham and the Isle of Wight before it gets rolled out across the country. Picture: Jon King

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Newham Council has defended the NHS test and trace app over criticism older people struggle to access it.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: �It�s important that no-one is disadvantaged or locked out of services simply because they don�t have a smartphone.Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: �It�s important that no-one is disadvantaged or locked out of services simply because they don�t have a smartphone." Picture: Age UK

Ed Byrne, who has lived in Manor Park for almost 50 years, attempted to download the app but failed because he hasn’t got the right smartphone.

The 82-year-old calculated it would set him back about £350 to get the right mobile, an amount the pensioner can ill afford.

Newham is part of an NHS trial of the latest test and trace app, which is aimed at helping to stop the spread of Covid-19.

It can alert users if a neighbourhood is high risk and if anyone comes into close contact with other users who tested positive. But users need either version 13.5 or higher for Apple phones or version 6.0 or Marshmallow for Android.

Mr Byrne said: “I’m not an expert in new technology. It’s totally impractical.”

The retired professional photographer said elderly neighbours who he has been helping during the pandemic would struggle too.

“None of the people I shop for have [smart] phones or computers. It’s a hair-brained scheme unless it works for everyone,” he said.

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He added that with his children having left the area, it would be hard to benefit from information about his neighbourhood via the app.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said it was important no-one is disadvantaged or locked out of services because they don’t have a smartphone.

She added that lack of knowledge, security concerns and cost are among the reasons older people do not use the internet.

“While it’s fine to encourage and support older people to use digital technology, we hope there are alternatives so the millions of people without smartphones can participate too, to avoid them being treated like second class citizens,” Ms Abrahams said.

A spokesperson for the authority said Newham is aware there will be people who cannot download the app and this is where others can help.

“The more people use it, the better protected our community will be. The app is just one measure Newham and the NHS are taking,” she said.

Others include the test and trace service.

“If risk levels change we will make sure this is communicated to residents not using the app,” she added.

Neither NHS Test and Trace nor Newham would confirm how many people have downloaded the app.


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