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Plz save sms

Its been known for some time SMS text messaging to patients was going to cease in March 2015 but as reported in Pulse recently the scheme will continue to be centrally funded until 30 September 2015. Considering the financial pressures on all NHS services, it’s no surprise a text service will have its funding questioned.

But just exactly how short sighted can NHS England be?

SMS text messaging to patients is an extremely useful and cost-effective way of contacting them. 

Like most other practices, we use it to remind patients about their appointment, reduce the DNA rate and open up cancelled appointments to others. We remind patients about their smear test, their diabetic clinic appointment, send out invitations for NHS Health Checks and invite feedback for the Friends and Family Test using texts. Even my local dentist sends me a text message to remind me about an urgent appointment I’ve waited two months for (and one I’m not likely to forget, given the hole the size of the Grand Canyon in one molar).

According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre: ‘The detail of the replacement service hasn’t yet been finalised so there isn’t any information to share at the present time. As soon as there are further details they will be confirmed by NHS England or the NHSmail team.’

Its closure is probably to do with complicated stuff like contracts and funding, and my guess is the service will continue in some form.

But there is a risk the funding will be delegated to CCGs, and that they will have to foot the bill for individual practices in their locality. I don’t know what financial state your CCG is in, but mine has a deficit the size of my cavity and I can see funding being so restrictive we’ll have to have practice meetings to decide which patient we’ll send our one monthly SMS text to.

One thing I am sure of is that, if funding stops for SMS messaging, many GPs will stop sending them. The DNA rate will go up, appointments will be harder to get and patient services will suffer – not what the NHS needs right now. 

Dr Hadrian Moss is a GP in Kettering, Northamptonshire. You can tweet him at @DrHMoss.