Social Value Highly Commended 2022: Netcompany with the Department of Health & Social Care

Social Value

In November 2020, Netcompany and three other companies were invited by the UK Government’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to prepare and submit bids within 24 hours for the development of a Covid Pass. The most successful candidate would go on to create a proof of concept (POC) within two weeks.
The purpose of the Covid Pass was to provide NHSX, the body responsible for setting national IT policy and developing best practice for NHS technology, with the ability to deploy a secure and scalable solution enabling the safe reopening of society in England and Wales during the Covid-19 pandemic.

After presenting to the DHSC and Cabinet Office representatives, Netcompany was selected to build the full solution. The team successfully built a prototype within two weeks and were then challenged to have the technology working and ready for private beta testing by Christmas 2020. This was a particularly demanding phase of the project. At the time no other country had created a Covid Pass and so the team was essentially starting from scratch. Netcompany consulted with the DHSC and the Cabinet Office to share information and communicate to them a framework about what an effective Covid Pass should look like and be capable of handling. Netcompany was fortunate to be able to draw inspiration from previous projects in transportation payments, anti-fraud, and other public sector projects in Europe, in order to design a high quality and secure data solution.

The team built a system that was conceptually similar to a college application program Netcompany had worked on previously in Denmark. The program enabled students to apply for university courses based on their high school examination grades. It required the same standards of security and scalability that a Covid Pass would need in terms of data integration.

Netcompany created both native and web app versions for beta testing. This involved integrating the apps with all relevant NHS systems, including NHS Digital, to gather critical data. There was no actual vaccine data available at the time, so the team used test databases to make sure the flows worked.

In April 2021, NHSX took over full responsibility as project owner from the DHSC and the Covid Pass officially became part of the UK Government’s pandemic response. The Pass had to work internationally at first, and optionally for domestic usage. This necessitated collaboration with development teams from many other countries, as well as working with Google, Samsung, and Apple to ensure compatibility with their smartphone wallet functions.

The NHS Covid Pass was officially launched on 17th May 2021, and the project has continued through to this year with a new release being issued weekly to keep up with evolving government Covid guidance on issues such as coronavirus mutations and new test solutions. It has enabled more than 25 million people to download the NHS app.

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