In order to make booking a Covid-19 vaccine jab quicker and more convenient, the NHS will start texting eligible people, inviting them to book an appointment.
Almost 400,000 people aged 55 and over and 40,000 unpaid carers will be the first to receive a text alert inviting them to book a slot as part of the latest development in the NHS vaccination programme.
The messages will include a web link for those eligible to click and reserve an appointment at one of more than 300 large-scale vaccination centres or pharmacies across England.
Reminders are then set to be issued 2-3 weeks after the original alert to those who have not yet taken up their offer a vaccine, encouraging people to consider booking an appointment.
These texts are intended to arrive in advance of the standard letter, which the NHS has been using to notify eligible people up until now. If the trial proves successful, texting appointment invitations could enable the NHS to react faster to changing vaccine supplies and fill appointments quickly.
NHS National Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis said: “Thanks to careful planning and the huge efforts of NHS staff we have vaccinated more than 18 million people in England, which is a remarkable achievement.
“The NHS vaccination programme, the biggest in health service history, continues to go from strength to strength and we are now building on that momentum by trialling a quick and easy service that will hopefully make it more convenient for people to book their life saving jab.
“I had my vaccine this week – it was simple, quick and painless – and I would encourage others who have not yet taken up the offer to come forward and receive the jab.”
Alongside the text trial, people will still receive letters inviting them to book an appointment, to ensure those who do not have a number registered or need information in different languages or formats don’t miss out.
People who have already been vaccinated and it has been recorded in the system should not receive a text message or letter. If people cannot or would not prefer not to travel to a vaccination centre or pharmacy-led site, they can wait to be invited for a vaccination by a local GP-led service.
In advance of beginning to send out text messaging, the NHS has also issued a warning to ensure people remain safe.
Fraudulent text messages have been used by scammers during the pandemic to try and collect personal details from people, get them to ring premium rate numbers or enter their banking details.
To ensure people are aware of whether a message is genuine or not, the NHS reiterated that any text sent itself would use the Government’s secure Notify service and would show as being sent from ‘NHSvaccine’.
It would also never ask for payment or banking details.
Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS Medical Director for Primary Care and practising GP, said: “We know that some people are rightly worried about scams going around, but if the message comes from ‘NHSvaccine’ and links to the NHS.uk website you can be sure that it’s the right invite.
“For any messages you might get about the vaccine, always remember that the NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details, your PIN or banking password.
“The NHS will also never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine, or ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.”