Introducing the NHS’ COVID-19 text service to support the vulnerable

During the past week, we’ve seen the Government unveil a raft of measures to try and protect those at the highest risk of developing severe illness as the number of COVID-19 cases in the UK and around the world continues to increase.

According to the World Health Organisation, there were over 372,000 confirmed cases and 16,200 deaths globally as of the morning of 25 March. Here, over 8,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 at the time of writing, and 422 patients have died.

Over the weekend, the Government urged up to 1.5 million people in England identified as extremely vulnerable due to their medical conditions to stay at home and shield themselves for at least 12 weeks in order to avoid contracting coronavirus.

This includes people that have received organ transplants and those that are living with severe respiratory conditions such as cystic fibrosis. They are expected to be contacted by letter this week or in person where necessary, and a new Local Support System will ensure those at need receive groceries and community pharmacies will help get medicines delivered.

To ensure that these citizens are contacted as quickly as possible, a group from NHSX, NHS Digital, NHS Business Services Authority and the Behavioural Insights Team have created a text messaging service to deliver information.

Starting from 23 March until 29 March, text messages offering guidance on accessing care during this period, wellbeing advice and more are sent daily to over one million people. The texts direct them to additional sources of information on the NHS and Government websites, which are being constantly updated. People can opt out by replying ‘stop’ to any message.

In a blog for NHS Digital this week, NHSX Lead Technical Architect Isaac Smith said the service, which is reviewed regularly, can be extended.

The work is a part of a suite of initiatives that we’ve seen be launched to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, which include a competition that aims to provide innovators with funding to test and develop digital solutions that can help those self-isolating.

At techUK, we will regularly be publishing updates on the work undertaken by our members to support the UK in this crisis, and you can share your story by contacting Health and Social Care Programme Managers Tom Russell and Leontina Postelnicu: tom.russell@techuk.org; Leontina.postelnicu@techuk.org.

You can also find out more about the new text messaging service, the TechForce19 competition, as well as the Government’s guidance on shielding the most vulnerable here.

  • Tom Russell

    Tom Russell

    Programme Manager | Health and Social Care
    T 020 7331 2030

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