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Safer Events

NHS QR Codes: What Are They and Why do I Need Them?

On September 24th, the government is launching its much-awaited contact tracing app. There’s been a lot of talk about the Bluetooth driven close contact sensing part of the app, but there’s been less talk about its venue tracing capabilities. Here’s how you can make the most of the app for your venue.

What does it do?

The Check-In feature on the app is designed to replace the individual contact tracing methods venues have been using since they reopened. You arrive at the venue, scan the QR code, your contact details are stored, and if someone who was at the venue at the same time as you tests positive, NHS test and trace will ask you to isolate.

Why should I use it?

The government is recommending that all venues use this version of contact tracing from now on, rather than their own or third-party solutions. This is for a few reasons.

  1. It helps NHS Test and Trace. Previously when someone tested positive, test and trace had to call up the patient, find out where they had been, contact the venues, get the venues to send them their contact tracing records, then call up all the customers who were at risk of exposure. With the NHS QR codes when someone tests positive they can request access to any venues they were at recently, and notify everyone who was there at the same time right away via the app. This will make contact tracing a lot faster, making it easier to control the spread of the virus.
  2. You don’t need to worry about GDPR compliance. Venue check-ins via the QR code are stored on the visitor’s phone. If the local health protection scheme believes that a venue has been linked with cases of COVID-19, the app will tell every phone using the app what venue and when, and if that phone has registered attendance, the user will get a notification.
  3. It’s free. You don’t need to spend money buying a third party’s contact tracing solution or creating your own.
  4. It’s easy. All you need to do is display the posters.
  5. It reduces transmission. There’s no need to have anyone sign an attendance sheet and create another touch point to worry about.

How do I register my venue?

It’s incredibly easy to sign your venue up. Just request a QR code on this page. You need a unique QR code for each of your venues, and all you need to set it up is the location, an email and a phone number for each one. Then print off the QR code, display it at the entrance of your venue, and you’re good to go.

What if someone can’t access the app, or refuses to?

Not everyone has a smartphone these days, so it’s important to have an alternative, manual way of collecting contact information. This must be held for 21 days after they visited the venue, in accordance with the law.

Some people might feel more comfortable using manual contact tracing over the NHS QR code due to data protection concerns. You might be able to persuade them to use it if you explain how their location data never leaves their phone and isn’t shared with the government. But they might still prefer not to use the app. That’s fine, as long as you still collect their contact tracing information.

If they refuse to use the QR code or give you their contact information, then you are legally obligated to refuse them entry to your venue. Your venue can be fined under law from September 18th.

What about my staff?

Your staff can use the QR codes as well. We recommend that everyone working at an event scans in on arrival, so that they can receive an alert if there was a suspect outbreak while they were on shift.

Can the other features of the app help with events?

The bluetooth close contact tracing element will be helpful with larger events. For example, imagine you were at a conference centre with multiple meeting rooms. If someone tests possitive who was at the venue at the same time as you but if a different meeting room and you never had contact with them, then the risk of you being infected is low and NHS Test and Trace may not think it’s necessary to contact you. However, if you’ve been sat in the same room as someone who tested positive for the duration of a 2 hour board meeting, your risk of infection is much higher and you’re more likely to need to isolate.

We recommend encouraging your attendees to make the most of this feature while at events.


The app is due to launch in England and Wales on the 24th September, so get signed up for a QR code and get ready to streamline your contact tracing.

If you're interested in becoming a Safer Venue, download the whitepaper or find out more about the accreditation here. You can also request a free consultation below.


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Author Izzie Lachecki profile image

Izzie Lachecki

Izzie brings a deep understanding of the events world to Hire Space, and keeps busy by writing lots of Hire Space and EventLAB content and managing the Hire Space social media presence.

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