Cookie policy notice

By continuing to use this site you agree to our cookies policy below:
Since 26 May 2011, the law now states that cookies on websites can ony be used with your specific consent. Cookies allow us to ensure that you enjoy the best browsing experience.

This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

GPs urged to use text messaging to reduce DNAs

GPs should make more use of text messaging reminders to reduce patient no-shows, the leader of a Northern Ireland Assembly committee has said.  

Maeve McLaughlin, chair of the health, social services and public safety committee, put forward the idea during discussions with RCGP Northern Ireland Council chair Dr John O’Kelly on how to cut the number of ‘did not attends’ at GP practices.

She had been concerned that some vulnerable patients had been removed from practice lists after not coming to appointments.

But Dr O’Kelly argued that sending out texts on a large scale would be prohibitively expensive for practices.

He said: ‘GPs are starting to use more technology such as email consultations, or allowing people to use practices websites to make or cancel appointments, but if we texted every patient to remind them of appointments that would cost a lot of money. 

‘We do use texting for telling people about flu vaccinations and diabetes or chest clinics, but here are some vulnerable patients such as those with mental health problems or alcohol problems who have chaotic lives, and it can be difficult to reach them. We couldn’t expand text messaging to a wide scale unless it became more cost effective.’

Readers' comments (13)

  • "But Dr O’Kelly argued that sending out texts on a large scale would be prohibitively expensive for practices."

    Most text message systems use internet to send text messages now. It should be absolustely free to send out txts.

    Indeed most operators charge a fee of approx 25-50 per month.

    The NHS should be paying for this service throughout.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The reason that there are DNA's at all is when waiting lists for an appointment are longer. By the time that a patient's appointment comes round they are better, or no longer bothered by the original symptom, or have already been to A & E, or a walk-in centre. Mind you these patients should still have informed us. At the same time I am not surprised.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • But it doesn't work. We started using SMS services 4 years ago, and it had NO IMPACT AT ALL on DNA rates. Unless you will automate charges for DNAs, and have no exemptions, forget it. The alternative is an increase in remote triage & consults.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Dnas are not a big problem when working at 100% capacity. It gives mental headspace to catch up.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I agree with anon@4.10 - I find it a problem mainly on the odd occasions when 2 or 3 in succession or when a regular DNA actually turns up.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This is news?
    Aren't most people doing this?
    Good evidence to show it works, totally automated through systmone and very low cost so who cares even if it doesn't work.

    I use text messages a lot to inform patients to pick up scripts, phone reception etc etc. Seems to work well and feedback has been good.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous | Practice Manager | 03 August 2015 3:57pm


    you need to back it up with a robust system of punishing those who do DNA without any reason.

    Nothing gets patients in on time or call up to cancel early if there are actual consequences.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • this will only be an option if the texts are paid for by NHSE. As a partner I will not be paying out of my pocket for this service.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • DNA's should not be allowed to pre book for one year after a DNA ... others who really need to see a doctor are the ones that suffer.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • My GP has been doing it for years but information here is mis-infomation!
    We were told that Emis has started a program of allowing pharmacists to access GP records ... I checked that out as I am totally against it ... it has not happened ... but this site stated it had started in June?
    We need to read facts, not made up stories of what might be!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page

Have your say

IMPORTANT: On Wednesday 7 December 2016, we implemented a new log in system, and if you have not updated your details you may experience difficulties logging in. Update your details here. Only GMC-registered doctors are able to comment on this site.