Changes to the SMS Service and Funding
NHS England have written to CCGs stating that provision of messaging capability will be considered as a ‘core’ requirement within the GP IT Operating Framework, so that patients and practices do not suffer any interruption in their NHS SMS provision.
Therefore, Somerset CCG, in discussion with Somerset LMC, have agreed to sign up local existing users to the new service provided by EE and to fund the usage from the GP IT budget.
- NHS England have agreed with EE a discounted rate which is also cheaper than more recent offers from other suppliers.
- There will be no transitioning charge and no transition activity for SMS users of the EE service
If you wish to use and pay for an alternative service you are free to do so.
The cost of sending text messages (SMS) depends on the number of characters sent: the cost will be 1.6 p per text fragment.
The CCG will be monitoring usage and asks practices to note that a text fragment has a maximum 160 character length. Complex or long messages will result in a multiple text fragment cost being applied.
- Spaces and returns (new line) count as a character.
- Using wingdings or emoticons can start a new text fragment and so should be avoided
- A text to multiple recipients means the total cost of the message is multiplied by the number of recipients
- Your Practice email may also be included in the message automatically even if it does not show up prior to sending
Practices are politely requested to review their standard SMS messages (appointment reminders etc) to ensure that where possible messages are within the 160 character length.
Frome Medical Practice have tested their messages and, for your information, found that although their text fragment consists of the following phrase: “You have an appointment booked at the surgery tomorrow at 10:20, please call 01373 301310 if no longer required” It goes out as "You have an appointment booked at the surgery for today at 10:20, please call 01373 301310 if no longer required. email@example.com “, which is 145 characters, but when the text is forwarded, it shows as taking 149 characters. It may be that there are some hidden control characters and this should be kept in mind.
Practices that want to use this service that are not already users of the NHS.net SMS service need to contact the firstname.lastname@example.org with the email(s) they use to access to service and ask for these to be added to the SMS whitelist.