Daily SMS to be sent to most vulnerable

A new SMS service has launched today by NHSX, NHS Digital, NHS Business Services Authority and the Behavioural Insights Team to communicate to those considered most threatened by COVID-19.

Daily text messages will be sent to these people identified by the NHS to protect themselves for at least 12 weeks.

The information includes why they need to self-isolate for 12 weeks, practical guidance on how to access care and support whilst self-isolating.

Information will also include wellbeing and emotional advice, developed by the NHS and taken from the NHS website and

In a blog post by Isaac Smith, Lead Technical Architect at NHSX it said “a small group working across national organisations – from NHSX, NHS Digital, NHS Business Services Authority and the BIT – was quickly stood up last week to develop the new text messaging service that would deliver this information. This service is part of a Vulnerable, Isolated and Social Care team, which is looking at how we use technology to support these people.”

The group considered high risks includes though who have had organ transplants, have certain types of cancers, or have significant respiratory conditions.

Smith said “One of our concerns was that the texts may be treated as spam by some recipients. They have been designed so that they are clearly from the NHS and government. Their intent and purpose is to provide useful information directly to people through an easy-to-use channel. This is not about ‘direct marketing’ but about effective, modern public health communication using the latest technology to facilitate safe and speedy support and advice.”

“We are not limiting our support to this channel. Letters will also be sent from NHS England, including to people whose mobile numbers we don’t have.”

“We began work on this just over a week ago, and standing up a service to such a tight deadline has been challenging. The key to working quickly has been keeping all of the organisations and individuals involved well coordinated and in close touch. Clinicians, digital and technology professionals, behavioural scientists and communication professionals have all worked together at pace to make this the best possible service for people in need of support.”