NHS at the forefront of technology again

The NHS is to send text messages to 400,000 people, asking them to book a coronavirus jab, with reminders for those who do not come forward.

As part of efforts to boost uptake, text invitations will be sent to those aged 55 and over, with a link to reserve an appointment at a mass vaccination centre or pharmacist.

Health officials stressed that invitation letters would continue to be sent, and that those who preferred not to travel to the sites could wait to be invited by their GP.

But they said the move could allow the programme to move more quickly through the age groups, reacting to changing vaccine supplies and filling empty slots.

Sending texts about appointments is apparently such a new idea that it can only be implemented as part of pandemic measures.

23 thoughts on “NHS at the forefront of technology again”

  1. Bloke in North Dorset

    We’re both registered online with our GP and have been receiving appointment reminders by text for years. We’ve also been booking appoints and repeat prescriptions online for years.

    Mrs BiND received her vaccine appointment by text last month. Mine came by snail-mail. Friends got their invites by text in January.

    This story is about them calling forward the 50+ group not the marvel of old technology being used for the first time, that’s just the way the Telegraph has chosen to frame it.

  2. They do it more generally now. But they didn’t a few years ago. Two man dental practices were doing it, though.

    (and from a software perspective, it’s a piece of piss – you set a time in advance, eg 48 hours, check when appointments are within that time, and then send a message via a bureau).

  3. I’d love a text message from the NHS. Or a letter. Or a boy with a note in a cleft stick. But I want them to return my calls about a non-covid condition, and nobody seems interested.

  4. BiND: likewise. My wife got a text about her jab appt but not from our GP – it was from another medical centre a few miles away. My jab invite came via a friend whose wife works in the NHS and who knew about a few hundred jabs going spare one weekend. I got the official letter a few days later!

    I find NHS IT seems to work fairly well in our area but the local hospital has had outages.

  5. Got my invite by letter this morning – picked the nearest (though still not very convenient) and plenty of date options for 1st vaccine. But they want you to book both together, and no options available for the second!

    Had to choose another site, further away.

  6. I’ve been installing (can’t remember its name*) SMS software as part of the standard GP build since the Windows 7 rollout seven years ago. Maybe in some NHS areas it’s shiney new technology, but not in my area.

    *Too early, need more tea.

  7. Yeah knew an estonian who did all this stuff in 2010. Admittedly Russians spooks then had a field day.

  8. Just answered the phone. Must have been in a hurry as the lady spoke too fast for this hour of the day, but caught that she was from the doctor..Ah you beauty. Just tell me when and where, i’ll be there for my shot. Sorry sir this isn’t your Vax appointment this is for Rug Doctor.

  9. The GP practices that have been sending SMS reminders for years — decades in some cases — are private businesses contracting to the NHS, not the NHS itself. Missed appointments cost the managing partners money, while text messages are somewhere between trivially cheap and free. As remarked above, some (private) dentists have been doing it for even longer: a friend’s mum was a dentist’s receptionist back in 1999 or thereabouts, and her first job every morning was manually sending SMS and email reminders to people who had a mobile phone or email address registered with the practice.

    NHS hospitals — who have no motive to care — haven’t been using reminders. Incentives matter, people!

  10. “ NHS hospitals — who have no motive to care — haven’t been using reminders.”

    No true round these parts. I have been getting letters and texts for hospital appointments for years.

  11. My hospital sends text reminders 7 and 2 days before your appointment. It even says about them on the appointment letter. I had an appointment looming but the text didn’t arrive so I assumed my appointment had been cancelled and I phoned to confirm. My appointment was still on. Apparently they had stopped sending out the text reminders because of the pandemic.

  12. Got mine this morning, tried to book online and was told I am not eligible, I presume as I am not 55 until later this week. Fine by phone. My GP also sends reminders by text as does the dentist

  13. 3 weeks ago the text arrived. One surprisingly quick phone call and my vaccination took place the following week.

    Yesterday the letter arrived from my GP asking me to arrange an appointment for my first jab.

  14. As with other people here, my experience is that the dentist introduced it very early, the hospital more recently (and a bit piecemeal, it seems to work differently between outpatient appointments and blood test appointments for example) with the GP somewhere in the middle.

    @Matt

    “NHS hospitals — who have no motive to care — haven’t been using reminders. Incentives matter, people!”

    Hospital managers have certain incentives to reduce DNAs (Did Not Attend) even if it isn’t as strong as the pure profit motive of eg a private dental practice. DNAs are seen as a Bad Thing and NHS Trusts put targets in place to reduce them (stick “NHS reduce DNAs target” into your search engine of choice). But the incentive is only part of the problem. It doesn’t surprise me that smaller and more flexible organisations have managed to roll out technical solutions before larger ones with more layers of procurement bureaucracy. I’m pretty sure that’s a factor too.

  15. U.K. is steaming ahead, locally we are way behind, they only opened the appointment phone booking line to over 85’s this week

  16. Sending texts about appointments is apparently such a new idea that it can only be implemented as part of pandemic measures.

    Except for the parts of the NHS, like the one I’ve had 6-monthly appointments with for a few years now, who used to text the day before as a reminder.

    They’ve apparently stopped doing that now (without bothering to tell anyone who’s affected, of course,) and I missed today’s because they aren’t sending them out any more because “most appointments are over the phone now.”

    Unfortunately, they can’t take my blood over the bloody phone now. Can they?

    Idiots.

  17. Like others, where’s the news in this – my GP surgery and hospital AND Covid booking service are all using texts and have been for a while. I had a text for my elderly mother two months ago (it’s my mobile stored with the GP as one of her carers), and I got mine a couple of weeks ago.

    @Mr Ecks
    You are free to decline this life saving vaccine if you want, just don’t go spreading lies about it. But remember, as long as you and others with the same viewpoint don’t have the vaccine, then the more of it there will be around. I guess there are few people around now who can remember what life was like before vaccines for several common illnesses were developed – when people would end up in “iron lungs” because of Polio, or dead from Smallpox, or dead from Measles, or infertile from Mumps, have a miscarriage from Rubella, or … I don’t have figures, but I suspect that the development of vaccines has had the biggest benefit for humanity of all medical developments … ever.

  18. Simon

    I guess there are few people around now who can remember what life was like before vaccines for several common illnesses were developed – when people would end up in “iron lungs” because of Polio, or dead from Smallpox

    FFS, this is a low IFR respiratory illness.

    But remember, as long as you and others with the same viewpoint don’t have the vaccine, then the more of it there will be around.

    Given how ineffective (in % reduction) the usual flu vaccine is, and therefore (arithmetically) how much more important it might be than for the Covid vax if everyone had it to “protect” others, are you now arguing that for flu? A bit of perspective perhaps?

    I don’t have figures, but I suspect that the development of vaccines has had the biggest benefit for humanity of all medical developments … ever.

    And no one has questioned that? These particular ones aren’t even licensed yet (authorised for emergency use only). Stage 3 trials typically to complete in 2022/23.

  19. @Simon – March 9, 2021 at 6:03 pm

    … I don’t have figures, but I suspect that the development of vaccines has had the biggest benefit for humanity of all medical developments … ever.

    I dunno… I’ve seen it, quite seriously, suggested that the biggest benefactors haven’t been the medical profession but instead the water and sewer engineers who brought us clean drinking water and safe, effective sewage disposal have done far more for the general good of humanity.

  20. @Baron

    I found this one interesting a few years back:

    The Role of Public Health Improvements in Health Advances: The 20th Century United States
    David M. Cutler & Grant Miller

    “Mortality rates in the US fell more rapidly during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries than any other period in American history. This decline coincided with an epidemiological transition and the disappearance of a mortality “penalty” associated with living in urban areas. There is little empirical evidence and much unresolved debate about what caused these improvements, however. This paper investigates the causal influence of clean water technologies – filtration and chlorination – on mortality in major cities during the early 20th Century. Plausibly exogenous variation in the timing and location of technology adoption is used to idetify these effects, and the validity of this identifying assumption is examined in detail. We find that clean water was responsible for nearly half of the total mortality reduction in major cities, three-quarters of the infant mortality reduction, and nearly two-thirds of the child mortality reduction. Rough calculations suggest that the social rate of return to these technologies was greater than 23 to 1 with a cost per life-year saved by clean water of about $500 in 2003 dollars. Implications for developing countries are briefly considered.”

    https://www.nber.org/papers/w10511

    Quite short and readable.

    Vaccination against many forms of infectious disease has been useful too though. Vaccination also helped address the urban mortality penalty and has made city living much more tolerable. The Covid vaccines won’t make an enormous difference in terms of life-years saved compared to some of the vaccines that have been before, but they must have an unusually strong return in economic terms – even western countries that didn’t go for a government-mandated lockdown have taken a big economic hit. Anywhere that faffed around trying to get a “good deal” on their vaccines rather than trying to bring in as many as possible as soon as possible was burning their money.

  21. MBE

    but they must have an unusually strong return in economic terms

    You are right, however sod all to do with the virus itself and everything to do with the lunatic policy decisions that have taken place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *