A credit reference database check requirement may exclude disadvantaged groups from ordering the UK government’s coronavirus test online.
Under the test and trace system, people with symptoms of the virus are able to apply on the NHS website for an antigen test to be posted their homes.
Although the applying for a home testing kit does not require a credit check, the process uses the credit check company TransUnion to verify applicants’ identity. As the tests use data from the electoral roll, this could cause difficulties for people without stable addresses such as asylum seekers, refugees and travellers.
Those who do not complete or pass the TransUnion checks are instead required to go to a drive-through testing centre, which may not be possible for people without access to a vehicle.
The Department of Health and Social Care has denied the system is discriminatory and said an equalities impact assessment has been carried out.
WHY IT MATTERS
A rapid needs assessment carried out by Doctors of the World (DOW), found that digital exclusion, fear of being reported to the Home Office and language barriers were preventing excluded patients from ordering the test.
Anna Miller, UK policy and advocacy manager for DOW, said: “The COVID-19 testing system has been set up with very little consideration of how migrant and other excluded communities, particularly those who have had their healthcare entitlements removed, access NHS services and take part in public health protection measures.”
THE LARGER CONTEXT
The pilot of the track and trace app at the centre of the UK government’s COVID-19 strategy was trailed on the Isle of Wight in early May.
On 28 May, the test and trace system went live in England, with the aim of ensuring anyone with symptoms of the virus can be quickly tested. It also intends to help trace recent contacts of anyone who tests positive so they can self-isolate.
ON THE RECORD
Miller of DOW said: “Unfortunately, the NHS already has a poor track record on protecting migrant patients’ data and has shown a willingness to share it with the Home Office and private companies. This is going to erode trust between patients and the NHS further.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “No credit check is required. Our identity verification process has been an effective means of stopping fraudulent orders and is based on international evidence. Our testing call centre is available to support anyone who has trouble with the identity verification process, and there are a range of other in-person testing mechanisms that do not require identity verification.”
A TransUnion spokeswoman said: “TransUnion is conducting stringent identity checks on behalf of the NHS to help ensure testing kits are sent to the correct recipients and to minimise the risk of fraud. The identity verification uses information from an individual’s credit report.”