https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2019/12/20/gov-uk-notify-is-sending-messages-for-more-than-1500-services-across-the-public-sector/

GOV.UK Notify is sending messages for more than 1,500 services across the public sector

user sitting at a desk using a computer

The Government Digital Service (GDS) collaborates across the public sector to help organisations meet their users’ needs. GOV.UK Notify is one example of how GDS does this. It lets service teams send text messages, emails and letters to their users cheaply and easily, improving the user experience.  

Since its launch 4 years ago, use of GOV.UK Notify has grown exponentially. Today, nearly 500 organisations use it in more than 1,500 public services. In total, that's over 400 million updates, alerts, receipts and reminders sent a year. It is on track to save taxpayers an average of £35 million a year over the next 5 years. 

Organisations that use GOV.UK Notify range from government departments to county councils, NHS trusts to GP surgeries, and fire services to ambulance trusts. It is used in a huge variety of ways, including to alert people to flood warnings, remind soldiers of their medical appointments, update people on their passport applications or inform prison wardens of their rotas. 

We’re now seeing massive take-up right across the public sector. And, we want to keep it growing. 

In this blog post, we’ll look at how GOV.UK Notify is helping the public sector transform, how its use has grown, and how you can start using it in your organisation.

From central government to local government

In 2015, GDS set up its Government as a Platform (GaaP) programme to tackle shared obstacles across government. One of these challenges was communicating with users. So, GDS – working closely with departments – created GOV.UK Notify to offer a trusted, secure, government-branded, reliable and affordable solution. 

In May 2016, GOV.UK Notify sent its first message, and 9 months later it opened to all central government. In August 2017, after a 6-month pilot, it became available to local government

Early adopters of GOV.UK Notify included the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency who used it for MOT reminders, Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales for flood warnings and Pembrokeshire County Council for 5 different services

By using GOV.UK Notify, all these service teams could send their notifications cheaply and receive detailed performance reports. It also reduced time and hassle for both service teams and users. 

More than half of all councils in the UK now use GOV.UK Notify. For councils, being able to send letters quickly is particularly helpful. Buckinghamshire County Council moved their school admissions correspondence to GOV.UK Notify and recently sent out more than 10,000 letters by simply uploading a spreadsheet. Moving from printing letters on the office printer to sending them through GOV.UK Notify – with just a few clicks – saved them a vast amount of time and money.

GOV.UK Notify in healthcare 

The health sector started using GOV.UK Notify in early 2018. Early adopters included NHS Blood and Transplant, who you can see in the video below: 

Over the past 6 months, we’ve seen a big surge in the use of GOV.UK Notify within the NHS. We now have over 20 NHS trusts and 100 GP surgeries sending messages for 140 different services. These services include NHS England’s Diabetic Eye Screening Programme for appointment correspondence and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust’s remote monitoring to check in with patients after they leave their care.

Nearly all the GP surgeries in the London boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington use it for appointment reminders and to help people join up their electronic health patient records with their care records. Between them, these surgeries in the North Central London Clinical Commissioning Groups (NCL CCG) have sent nearly 500,000 text messages. Lisa Savage, Deployment Manager at NCL CCG, described how she worked with the team at GDS and helped reduce costs:   

To date, we have used the GOV.UK Notify text messaging service on behalf of nearly 100 GP practices in NCL CCG. The service is simple to set up, and while there is a 1-working-day turnaround time, we have regularly found that the GOV.UK Notify team are far quicker to activate the service. At times, the Notify team have acted on our requests within minutes, and when queries have arisen, they have responded promptly.

In addition to the excellent customer service element, the allowance of 25,000 free text messages for each of our GP practices has supported us with the cost-efficient delivery of our project by minimising the need for postage.

GDS continues to collaborate closely with NHS Digital and NHSX, as usage of GOV.UK Notify grows. This helps us understand the specific needs of the health sector and make sure GOV.UK Notify meets them now – and in the future. 

GOV.UK Notify in the wider public sector

Outside of central and local government and the NHS, other parts of the public sector also use GOV.UK Notify. 

The emergency services, including police, fire and rescue teams, and ambulance trusts, use GOV.UK Notify to send a variety of messages. These include command room communications during major incidents and calling up volunteer firefighters. 

GOV.UK Notify is also found in prisons to let prison wardens know their shift timings and locations in advance. 

The tool also helps keep the armed forces healthy. Barracks use GOV.UK Notify to keep armed services personnel updated about their healthcare and dental appointments.

Get involved 

We want to keep helping the public sector transform its services. We also want to continue to work closely with service teams to make sure GOV.UK Notify remains as useful and helpful as possible. GOV.UK Notify is easy to set up and use, and is almost completely self-service.

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10 comments

  1. Comment by Tim Clarke posted on

    I’ve been looking at Notify for NHS GPs in our county and the rate after 25k allowance is higher than our current rate with our mobile provider. Looking at our projected usage this would make it more expensive to use.

    Are there any plans to improve the text charges or raise the allowance?

    Reply
    • Replies to Tim Clarke>

      Comment by Pete Herlihy posted on

      Hi Tim,

      We have no plans to change the rates or allowances. We've yet to see pricing that matches or betters our own when allowances and unit prices are included, so would be interested to hear more about the rates you're getting. I'll email you directly to follow-up.

      Reply
      • Replies to Pete Herlihy>

        Comment by Tim Clarke posted on

        Thanks Peter, looking again including the free allowance it is looking more competitive (i.e. cheaper). It would be great to have a list of systems currently integrating with Notify, for instance Synatech currently offer this.

        Reply
  2. Comment by Ian Curr posted on

    I work in a hospital Trust and I note we have a free 25,000 allocation of SMS texts. Who funds this and is there an opportunity to have a much higher allocation like councils have?

    Reply
    • Replies to Ian Curr>

      Comment by Pete Herlihy posted on

      Hi Ian,

      Text message allowances are funded from the Government Digital Service (Cabinet Office) budget.

      Local authorities have a 25,000 message allowance each financial year for each distinct service, which is the same as NHS Trusts. It's possible to have multiple allowances as long as the services are genuinely distinct eg one for physiotherapy, another for cardiology etc.

      Central Government services that cover the whole country have the higher allowance of 250,000 messages.

      Reply
      • Replies to Pete Herlihy>

        Comment by Ian Curr posted on

        That makes sense. Thanks.

        Reply
  3. Comment by Tom Gardiner posted on

    Is Notify available to use for housing associations? We’re re-procuring our messaging service so would be good to know if this is an option...

    Reply
    • Replies to Tom Gardiner>

      Comment by Pete Herlihy posted on

      Hey Tom,

      Notify is available to all public sector organisations, or others running a managed service directly on behalf of a public sector organisation.

      If your association is delivering its services on behalf of a local authority(s), then it would be eligible to use Notify for the purposes of that work.

      Do drop us a note at https://www.notifications.service.gov.uk/support if your set up is more nuanced or you want to chat in more detail.

      Reply
    • Replies to Tom Gardiner>

      Comment by Paul Saunders posted on

      Tom, did you get a response to this query? i.e. can the service be used by a Housing Association?

      Reply
      • Replies to Paul Saunders>

        Comment by Tom Gardiner posted on

        Hi Paul,

        I’m afraid I only saw the above reply just now. I’ve dropped a line to their support people and await their response.

        Reply

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