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GP funding for text message appointment reminders to remain until September

NHS England has agreed to continue funding a service that allows GP practices to send text message appointment reminders through their email systems until September this year, after the Department of Health originially said it would be stop funding the service from March.

Pulse revealed in July that the Department of Health and NHS England had submitted a business case for NHS mail 2 which excluded funding for SMS, commonly used by practices to text appointment or health check reminders.

GP leaders warned that the proposals would undermine the Government’s inclusion strategy, as reminders were a key part of contacting hard to reach population groups.

The latest update from the Health and Social Care Information Centre states that NHS England has opted to delay.

It says: ‘NHS England has now formally agreed to continue to support SMS for primary care organisations only, including CCGs, GP practices, pharmacists, optometrists, dentists and commissioning support units that directly support the above groups until 30 September 2015.

‘NHS England has taken this decision to provide additional time for existing primary care services to make provisions with general practices, to transition this to a local service from 1 October 2015.’

In a letter to IT leads in June, the HSCIC advised primary care providers to consider cheaper alternatives to SMS, such as email or smartphone apps for notifying patients.