NHS Lothian text message service and online portal offer convenience to patients whilst minimising wasted appointments

NHS Lothian have launched a new text message service and online portal, making it quicker and easier for patients to update their details.

The two services are being rolled out across a range of specialties starting with Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Gynaecology, Colorectal General Surgery, Ear, Nose & Throat, Gastroenterology, General Surgery, Urology, Neurosurgery, Plastic Surgery and Rheumatology.

Patients who have been waiting for outpatient appointments will receive a text message from NHS Lothian asking them to log in to an online portal using a unique PIN and their date of birth. Once logged in, the patient can quickly and easily provide an update on whether they still need an appointment. Gathering this information is critically important for outpatient services, as it ensures that appointments are only issued to those who still require them.

Anne Lavery, Head of Access for Scheduled Care, NHS Lothian explained, “When patients are waiting for appointments, their circumstances can change. Some people may see an improvement in their condition, others will have received treatment elsewhere and indeed some may have moved away. The new text message service and online portal allow patients to quickly, easily and securely confirm whether they still require an appointment, reducing the number of wasted appointments issued to those who no longer require them.”

The new text message system is being introduced following a successful trial period. From the trial, useful learning was received which has supported the further expanded roll out.

Anne added, “From banking to online shopping, people are used to receiving and responding to text messages. The new text message system offers our patients convenience, while also helping to minimise the number of wasted appointments.”

The new text message service will be complimented by more traditional communications methods, helping to ensure that no patient is excluded. Clear processes are also in place to ensure that appropriate follow-up action can be taken should a patient not respond to a text they receive.

Jacquie Campbell, Chief Officer, Acute Services said, “NHS Lothian is committed to reducing waiting times for patients and significant work is underway as part of national efforts to remobilise, recover and redesign services following the pandemic.

“As part of this work, we are also actively exploring how we can improve the experience for patients who are waiting for an appointment, recognising that for many this can be a frustrating and worrying time.

“The introduction of the text message service is something our patients said would be helpful for them and I am delighted that we are beginning to roll this out. By reducing the number of appointments issued to those who no longer need them, we can in turn help to reduce waiting times for others.”