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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.’