Design and evaluation reports of digital contact tracing app trials

peter wells made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to Department of Health and Social Care

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Gwrthodwyd y cais gan Department of Health and Social Care.

Dear Department of Health and Social Care,

I have raised this FOI through whatdotheyknow.com to provide visibility and tracking of the request.

I am trying to understand the design and results of the trials of the digital contact tracing app:

i) on the Isle of Wight in May 2020
and ii) in the London borough of Newham, the Isle of Wight and with NHS Volunteers in August/September 2020.

I am raising the FOI as no reports from these trials have been published despite commitments in evidence to the Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology on 6 July that the report from the first trial would be published soon, and to the Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology on 17 September that evaluations would be published as soon as practicable [1].

I would be grateful if you could provide:

i) the design for the first trial in the Isle of Wight
ii) the evaluation report from this first trial that led to the decision to change the design of the app
iii) the design for the second trial
iv) the evaluation report from the second trial that led to the decision to launch nationally

Yours faithfully,

Peter Wells

[1] https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevi... https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevi...

Department of Health and Social Care

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Dear Department of Health and Social Care,

I am writing to follow up my Freedom of Information request asking for the release of the design and evaluation reports of digital contact tracing app trials. It has not been responded to promptly and within the legal timescales.

This request was submitted on 16 October and under the 2000 FOI Act should have been responded to by 12 November.

I understand the circumstances and pressures created by the pandemic - as reflected in ICO guidance (1) - but also believe that public health interventions, particularly novel ones like digital contact tracing, should be based on evidence that is openly and transparently published.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Wells

(1) https://ico.org.uk/media/about-the-ico/p...

Hello Department of Health and Social Care,

I do apologise for chasing again, but by law this FOI request should have been responded to promptly and by 12 November.

I understand the pressures generated by a pandemic, but from looking at public requests on WhatDoTheyKnow it does appear that other FOI requests, including some related to the pandemic, are being responded to more promptly. For example:

"AstraZeneca vaccine AZD1222 will it prevent a covid19 infection" https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/a...
Request sent: 28 October
First non-automated reply 29 October

"The Macfarlane Trust"
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...
Request sent: 2 November
First non-automated reply: 19 November

"Covid-19 Testing correspondence"
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...
Request sent: 23 September
First non-automated reply: 21 October

"Sars-Cov-2"
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/s...
Request sent: 2 November
First non-automated reply: 2 November

"Face Coverings"
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/f...
Request sent: 2 November
First non-automated reply: 17 November

I think my request was clear enough, but f I can provide any additional information to help this request get processed promptly then do let me know.

Yours faithfully,
Peter Wells

p.s. a reminder of the original request
-----------

Dear Department of Health and Social Care,

I have raised this FOI through whatdotheyknow.com to provide visibility and tracking of the request.

I am trying to understand the design and results of the trials of the digital contact tracing app:

i) on the Isle of Wight in May 2020
and ii) in the London borough of Newham, the Isle of Wight and with NHS Volunteers in August/September 2020.

I am raising the FOI as no reports from these trials have been published despite commitments in evidence to the Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology on 6 July that the report from the first trial would be published soon, and to the Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology on 17 September that evaluations would be published as soon as practicable [1].

I would be grateful if you could provide:

i) the design for the first trial in the Isle of Wight
ii) the evaluation report from this first trial that led to the decision to change the design of the app
iii) the design for the second trial
iv) the evaluation report from the second trial that led to the decision to launch nationally

Yours faithfully,

Peter Wells

[1] https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevi... https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevi...

Department of Health and Social Care

1 Atodiad

 

Dear Mr Wells,

Please find attached the Department of Health and Social Care's response
to your recent FOI request (our ref: FOI 1263738). 

Yours sincerely,
Jane Spencer 

Freedom of Information Team
Department of Health and Social Care

 

 

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Dear Department of Health and Social Care,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department of Health and Social Care's handling of my FOI request 'Design and evaluation reports of digital contact tracing app trials'.

The request was refused under Section 22 which states that public bodies are not obliged to
disclose information that is intended for future publication. The response states that "there is a very strong public interest in ensuring that this information is made available to everyone at the same time, thereby ensuring equity of access". It does not state when the information will be published.

The response does not consider the public interest in transparency.

The digital contact tracing app is a public health intervention that is designed to affect the health outcomes of both the population as a whole and of the individuals that use it. It continues to be promoted and new features are being developed. No evidence has been published from the trials that would help the public understand how it affects their health.

The Health Research Agency's principles say that "information about research projects [should be] made publicly available before they start" and that "the findings, whether positive or negative, [should be] made accessible, with adequate consent and privacy safeguards, in a timely manner after they have finished" (1).

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/d...

Yours faithfully,

Peter Wells

(1) https://www.hra.nhs.uk/planning-and-impr...

FreedomofInformation, Department of Health and Social Care

1 Atodiad

Dear Mr Wells,

Your requested internal review of FOI-1263738 is now complete. Please see the attached letter for the outcome.

Yours sincerely,

Charlene Carter
Freedom of Information Casework Manager
Department of Health and Social Care
39 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0EU

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

ref: FOI-1263738

Dear DHSC FOI team

Today the Department has published some information about the performance of the contact tracing app (1).

The published information does not include the design and evaluation reports from the trials that preceded the national launch. In the response to FOI-1263738 the Department stated that the reports from the trials were withheld under section 22 of the FOIA (Information intended for future publication).

Could you confirm that this information will still be published?

Yours sincerely,
Peter Wells

(1) https://www.gov.uk/government/news/nhs-c...

FreedomofInformation, Department of Health and Social Care

Dear Mr Wells,

Thank you for your email.

The Freedom of Information Act only applies to recorded information such as paper or electronic archive material. As your correspondence asked for general information rather than requesting specific recorded information or documentation, it did not fall under the provisions of the Act. It will be answered as general correspondence in due course.

Yours sincerely,

FOI Team
Department of Health and Social Care

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Department of Health and Social Care

Our ref: DE-1303023 

   

Dear Mr Wells,  
   
Thank you for your correspondence of 9 February about COVID-19. I have
been asked to reply and I apologise for the long delay in doing so.  
 
I should explain that the Freedom of Information Act only applies to
recorded information such as paper or electronic archive material. As your
correspondence asked for general information, rather than requesting
recorded information or documentation, it did not fall under the
provisions of the Act.  

 

The Act does not cover unrecorded information that officials may remember,
opinions that officials might have, official advice (apart from past
advice the Department of Health has given, where a record of this has been
kept) or requests for an official policy statement (again, apart from past
policy statements, where a record has been kept). There is no obligation
under the FOI Act for public authorities to create new information. 

 

As the Department of Health and Social Care is currently receiving an
extremely high volume of enquiries due to the ongoing coronavirus
(COVID-19) pandemic, we are only able to provide an individual response to
the most sensitive and urgent cases.  

 

Although the Department recognises the importance of each concern and
would ordinarily respond to queries individually, the current
circumstances have required a temporary change in the method of handling
correspondence. 
 

The Department is, however, continuing to record all the correspondence
that it receives so that it is able to track the main issues being raised
by the public. 

 

If your enquiry is in relation to the pandemic, the Government has
launched a COVID-19 ‘hub’, which can be found
at [1]www.gov.uk/coronavirus and is regularly updated. The hub offers all
the Government’s latest advice and guidance, a link to the NHS website, a
portal for those offering assistance, a tracking service displaying the
latest information on cases in the UK, and an email alert service so
people can stay up to date with all the latest measures.  

 

If you consider your situation to be of a particularly sensitive or urgent
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majority of such correspondence within 18 working days. However, please be
aware that due to current COVID-19 working from home guidance, there may
be a delay in us responding to physical correspondence in particular.  

 
Yours sincerely,  
   
Joseph Rawlinson  
Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries 
Department of Health and Social Care 

  

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References

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Gadawodd peter wells anodiad ()

Government did not provide the requested evaluation reports in response to the FOI but, without informing me, did publish them on the same day they sent me the final response

Such democratic fun :)

https://www.gov.uk/government/publicatio...