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Ealing rolls out text alerts to cut missed GP appointments

Antony Savvas

Ealing Primary Care Trust is to send patients GP appointment reminders and health information using mobile phone text messages.

The messages will be sent to patients at 22 surgeries across the west London borough, and are designed to improve healthcare and help reduce the number of missed appointments.

Practice administrators will also see a reduction in the time and cost spent sending out letters or making phone calls. The roll-out follows trials in the Perivale and Northolt areas of the borough.

At one of the pilot practices, the Hillview Surgery in Perivale, the system has led to a 30% drop in the number of patients who miss appointments.

Imperial College in London estimates that text appointment reminders alone could save the NHS in England £240m to £380m a year.

Ealing PCT has selected iPlato Patient Care Messaging platform running on the Orange mobile network to support the service.

The system is approved by the NHS for security and confidentiality, and works with patient administration systems already used by GPs throughout the borough.

Keith Martin, service development manager at Ealing PCT, said, “Mobile patient services have proven that they are cost effective and scalable.”

To access the free service, patients register their mobile phone numbers at their surgeries. Text messages are sent across the Orange network but can be received by phones on any network. Patients can unsubscribe at any time.

The service can be used to promote health campaigns such as invitations to receive flu jabs or attend asthma clinics.

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