Guidance: NHS Test and Trace statistics (England): methodology


Department Of Health


DHSC publishes weekly statistics on coronavirus (COVID-19) contact tracing dating from when the NHS Test and Trace service started on 28 May 2020. These statistics cover:

  • number of people tested for coronavirus in England
  • number of people who tested positive for coronavirus in England
  • time taken for test results to become available in England
  • distance to take a test in-person in England
  • number of people testing positive for coronavirus in England that were then transferred to the contact-tracing system, and the time taken for them to be reached
  • number of recent close contacts identified, and the time taken for them to be reached

This document sets out information on the data sources and methodology are used to generate each of these measures. It will keep being updated with further detail.

Published 18 June 2020
Last updated 24 September 2020 +show all updates

  1. Update to reflect new information published on the following: distance to take a test in-person within pillar 2, UK tests processed and testing capacity split by swab tests and antibody tests, demographic breakdowns for people newly tested and people newly testing positive.

  2. Updated to reflect the new breakdown between regional and local test sites.

  3. Updated how testing capacity is defined and calculated.

  4. Added information about how cases and contacts are matched to an upper-tier local authority.

  5. Updated to include more detail about coronavirus (COVID-19) testing in the UK.

  6. Updated to reflect that: median turnaround times are now reported, the median number of contacts per case is now included, the way in which recent close contacts are identified for complex cases has changed since the beginning of NHS Test and Trace, and the number of non-complex close contacts identified and the number who were reached and asked to self-isolate is also provided for each upper-tier local authority.

  7. Updated to reflect that daily testing statistics will no longer be updated on GOV.UK, clarifying who gets transferred to contact tracing and updating pillar 2 turnaround methodology.

  8. The methodology has been updated to include new information on the geographical breakdowns for tracing data and to include information on Coronavirus testing data in the UK. The structure of this document has also been improved to add further clarity.

  9. Updated to correct an error in how the number of people tested relates to the number of positive cases and to add further details on which cases are transferred to NHS Test and Trace.

  10. The methodology has been updated to clarify what is meant by ‘newly’ tested as well as expanding detail on study samples excluded from turnaround times.

  11. The methodology has been updated to include details of the new breakdowns in this weeks release. These include pillar 1 turnaround times, the number of household close contacts, and the time taken for contacts to be reached from the time that the positive case that referred them is transferred to the contact-tracing system. Also included are more details about what a close contact is and how these figures can be used.

  12. Updated to include more information on how NHS Test and Trace classifies complex and non-complex cases and contacts, and how local test sites are included in turnaround statistics.

  13. The methodology document has been updated to reflect the changes in the methodology for calculating the time taken to receive a COVID-19 test result from time of test for home testing kits. More details about pillar 1 test turnaround times and the reasoning behind the percentage of people testing positive being removed from the publication has also been added.

  14. Updates have been made throughout the methodology document, including new sections added: ‘People tested compared to tests’ and ‘Time taken to receive a COVID-19 test result’.

  15. Added new 2 new sections on testing, and new sections on ‘Number of people providing details of one or more recent close contacts’ and ‘Notes on interpreting against other statistics’.


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