CONTACTING SERVICE USERS BY TEXT MESSAGES (SMS) POLICY

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1 CONTACTING SERVICE USERS BY TEXT MESSAGES (SMS) POLICY POLICY NUMBER 098/Corporate POLICY VERSION 1 RATIFYING COMMITTEE Information Governance Group DATE RATIFIED May 2012 DATE OF EQUALITY & HUMAN RIGHTS May 2012 IMPACT ASSESSMENT (EHRIA) NEXT REVIEW DATE May 2015 POLICY SPONSOR Executive Director of Finance and Performance POLICY AUTHOR Information Governance Assistant EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Guidance on Communication with service users with text messages (SMS). If you require this document in another format such as large print, audio or other community language please contact the Governance Support Team on Did you print this document yourself? Please be advised that the Trust discourages the printing and retention of hard copies of policies and can guarantee that the policy on the Trust website is the most up-to-date version. As a contingency a full set of up-to-date Trust policies are held by the Governance Support Team based at Trust HQ, Swandean

2 CONTENTS 1.0 Introduction 1.1 Purpose of policy 1.2 Definitions 1.3 Scope of policy 1.4 Principles PAGE Policy Statement Duties Procedure 4.1 Consent 4.2 Sending appointment reminders 4.3 Engaging in text message contact with service users 4.4 Recording of data relating to care 4.5 Password protection 4.6 Professional Boundaries 4.7 Clarity 4.8 Data Quality 4.9 Disciplinary Measures Development, consultation and ratification Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessment (EHRIA) Monitoring Compliance Dissemination and Implementation of policy Document Control including Archive Arrangements Reference documents Bibliography Glossary Cross reference Appendices Appendix A Appendix B Appendix C Page 2 of 12

3 1.0 Introduction Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (the Trust) supports the use of text messaging as a means of communication with service users, subject to compliance with this policy. 1.1 Purpose of policy It is recognised that text messaging, or SMS, is an ever-growing technology, and one that occupies a vital role in communication, particularly for children and young adults. Research has indicated that under 25 year olds are more likely to communicate by text message than by a telephone call, and many find it easier to discuss their health problems through this medium than by face-to-face contact. 1.2 Definitions SMS Short Message Service an easy to use communication service for the exchange of short alphanumeric messages, usually between mobile telephone devices. Texting the most widely used data application globally allowing mobile phone users to send and receive short messages of up to 250 characters direct to their phones. 1.3 Scope of policy This policy sets out the circumstances in which service users may be contacted by SMS and the procedures that must be followed when using this method of communication. It will delineate the methods by which text messages can be sent to service users, and what may and may not be sent using each method. 1.4 Principles Many service users increasingly expect the Trust to communicate with them via text message for simple transactions such as appointment reminders. This policy will concentrate on three areas of text message communication with service users: Reminders about appointments previously made or cancellations Information to subscribed patients about the availability of a new or changed care service For health-related purposes to discuss the care or welfare of a service user. There are many advantages for the use of text messages to communicate with service users: Speed and ease of use unlike post, which may take several days to arrive, text messaging should be near-instantaneous Reduced postage costs and less impact to the environment Likelihood of reduced DNA rates due to ability to send appointment reminders Greater levels of engagement with children and younger adults. Page 3 of 12

4 2.0 Policy Statement The Trust is committed to delivering the best possible care and ensuring its practitioners have all the knowledge and tools they need to provide this. This policy has been written to ensure that text messages can be used in accordance with service users wishes and that their confidentiality is upheld. 3.0 Duties This guidance applies and must be adhered to by anyone working within Trust services including; but not exclusively, employees, seconded staff and contractors who use or who intend to use text messages in the course of their communication with service users. The Chief Executive has overall responsibility for Trust data. The Senior Information Risk Owner is accountable to the Trust board for information risks and security of information. The Caldicott Guardian is responsible for the establishment of procedures governing access to, and the use of, person-identifiable information and, where appropriate, the transfer of that information to other bodies. Managers are responsible for making sure this guidance is highlighted to relevant staff, that it has been understood, and that it is being followed. The Senior Information Risk Owner and the Caldicott Guardian can be contacted through the Information Governance Team: or by phone on Procedure 4.1 Consent Before any text message communication is initiated with a service user it is important that their consent is gained and recorded on the consent form at Appendix A. The consent form should be retained in the service user s health records. It is of vital importance that the consent the service user gives is informed consent. This means that all implications and risks involved in this means of communication are explained to the patient. The following points should be addressed: The phone should only be accessed by the service user. The risks of another person using the phone should be explained to the service user, and the use of a PIN or locking mechanism should be advised. The service user should understand the importance of informing Trust staff when and if their phone number should change. The service user should understand the limits of the communication method, including the eventuality of a text message not being answered out of hours, and that sensitive personal information (eg test results) won t be communicated in this way. Sending a text is not a foolproof method of ensuring a message is received and read. If a service user needs to contact you urgently, it is advised that they should always make a call rather than a text. Page 4 of 12

5 4.2 Sending appointment reminders Text messages can be used to contact service users to remind them about appointments or to notify of changes to opening times etc. It is advised that this type of contact is always conducted via NHSmail. A text message sent from NHSmail is headed by a Do Not Reply message, advising that responses are not monitored and the message should not be replied to. A generic address (e.g. can be set up for the purpose of sending such appointment reminders, and there are instructions on how to do so in Appendix B, Please contact the IT service desk to set up a generic NHSmail address, or if you require any support in sending text messages from NHSmail. If such an appointment reminder is to be sent from a mobile phone for any reason, a clear auto-signature should be included stating that service users should not respond to the message. 4.3 Engaging in text message contact with service users Text messaging can be used as another means of contact and engagement between service users and their care co-ordinator. Some service users, particularly those from younger age groups may prefer this method of contact and find it easier to communicate via text messaging. With the service user s consent, practitioners are free to open text message communication, but there are a number of things which must be remembered. 4.4 Recording of data relating to care It is important to note that any text messages (sent or received) that relate to a service user s care constitute part of their clinical records. They or a transcription of them should ultimately be transferred to the patient s records on e-cpa or the physical notes. Please note it is possible to synch your Trust mobile phone with your Outlook account, so that messages can be sent, received and saved on there. Guidance can be found on the following page: 4.5 Password Protection Given that a service user s confidential data could be held on a Trust mobile, it is also important that there are some security protections on it. Every Trust mobile can be set up with password protection, thus securing it from unauthorised persons. Anyone engaging in text message communication with a service user must have their mobile password protected. Instructions on how to do this can be found in Appendix C. 4.6 Professional Boundaries No member of staff should use their personal phone to engage in text message communication with service users. Additionally, staff should ensure to set boundaries with service users: If the phone is only used by one person, inform them that their message may not always be promptly answered, and take into account annual leave etc. If it is a duty or shared mobile within a team, take care to inform the service user of who else may see their messages, and take this into account with any communication with them. Page 5 of 12

6 4.7 Clarity Sending a text message is no different to sending a letter or having a telephone conversation, in that it should be conducted in a professional manner. In communication particularly where clinical information may be exchanged abbreviations or txtspk should not be used. 4.8 Data Quality All personal information, including telephone numbers, held about a service user should be checked with them at regular intervals, and this is particularly important where the service user is engaged in text message communication with a service. As per section 4.1 of this policy, the risks of not informing the service of a number change or lost phone should have been stressed to the service user at the point of commencement, but it is expected that staff be pro-active in checking the accuracy of personal data. 4.9 Disciplinary Measures Disciplinary action may be taken against staff who Send messages from an account or phone not specifically set up for this purpose. Consistently inadvertently send messages to the wrong phone Are found to have not checked that the service user s phone is still in use and belongs to them before sending a message. Engage in appropriate text message conversations with service users 5.0 Development, consultation and ratification This policy has been developed following best practice from NHS Connecting for Health and the Royal College of Nursing, as well as the principles of the Data Protection Act and exemplar guidance from other NHS Trusts. The policy will be ratified by the Information Governance Group. 6.0 Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessment (EHRIA) This policy has undergone an EHRIA in accordance with Trust policy. 7.0 Monitoring Compliance Audit procedures and audit cycles will be established by the Information Governance Team, in collaboration with Operational Services to ensure that: The exchange of text messages with service users has not created any problems or difficulties for the Trust or for service users, insofar as that can be ascertained Any risks are identified, regularly re-assessed and adequately addressed Confidentiality is not put at risk, and that appropriate records of contact are properly maintained. Any incidents that are raised as a result of text message communication with service users will be investigated, reviewed and reported to the Information Governance Group. Any action required to increase the effectiveness of this policy will be undertaken. Page 6 of 12

7 This policy is to be regularly reviewed to ensure that any changes in technology or operational practice can be incorporated. 8.0 Dissemination and Implementation of policy This policy will be available to all staff on the Trust Website and publicised in the Partnership Bulletin. 9.0 Document Control including Archive Arrangements It will be the responsibility of the Sponsor and Authors of this policy document to ensure that it is kept up to date with any changes in legislation, guidance and national or local policy. This policy will be managed in accordance with the Policy for Procedural Documents Reference documents Data Protection, Security and Confidentiality Policy Use of Portable Electronic Storage Devices Policy 11.0 Bibliography Royal College of Nursing Use of Text Messaging Services Guidance for Nurses working with young people and children March NHS Information Governance Guidance on the use of SMS messaging Glossary 13.0 Cross reference 14.0 Appendices Page 7 of 12

8 Appendix A - CONSENT TO RECEIVE SMS TEXT MESSAGING Sussex Partership NHS Foundation Trust is always looking at different ways of communicating with you. We recognise that many people prefer to use text messages to stay in touch and contact others, so if you wish to contact your care co-ordinator by text message, this can happen. There are obvious limits to what can be discussed in text messages, and there are certain risks involved in sending and receiving text messages that talk about how you are feeling or other aspects of your care. Your care co-ordinator should talk through all these issues with you, and if you are happy to go ahead, please sign this consent form. ****************************************************************************** I have had the issues and risks involved in opening text message dialogue with the service explained to me. I would like to be able to send and receive messages to and from my care co-ordinator, and I understand that I can cancel this text message dialogue at any time. I agree to advise the Trust if my mobile number changes or is no longer in my possession. Please complete the details below and write clearly to avoid any mistakes Patient name (Forename and Family/Surname) Date of Birth Mobile Telephone number Patient Signature Date Page 8 of 12

9 Appendix B 1 Using NHS Mail for sending SMS messages SMS messages (commonly referred to as text messages) can be sent to a single individual or to multiple recipients. The messages can be addressed using individual mobile numbers or the addresses for 'SMS' distribution lists. Recipient details can be entered manually or selected from the address book (the Directory and your personal contacts folder). SMS messages will only be delivered to valid mobile numbers beginning with '07'. You will be notified of any delivery failures by means of an sent to your Inbox. All SMS messages sent from NHSmail will be marked as being from 'NHS no reply'. Your address will also be added to the bottom of the message text. If you need to be able to send an SMS anonymously, you will need to contact your LOA and request the correct privileges to do so. To send an SMS message: In the Tools view, click on SMS & Fax Click on Create SMS in the Navigation Pane Specify the recipients for the message. This can be done by entering the numbers manually and clicking on Add to Recipients, or by clicking on Search Contacts to add recipients from the address book Compose the message. The message content for the SMS message can be typed directly into the Message field on the Send SMS page, or it can be copied and pasted from another source such as an or a Word document Click on Send 1.1 Character limits The size limit for an SMS message is 306 characters (including spaces and your address). If you exceed the character limit you will be prevented from entering any further text. The number of characters available for your message is displayed under the Message field. 2 Specify the recipient(s) for an SMS message Recipients for an SMS message can be manually entered or added from the address book. 2.1 Specify recipients manually When you manually specify the recipients for an SMS message, the recipients are not added to your own contacts folder! To manually specify the recipient(s) for an SMS message: Carefully enter the mobile numbers or distribution list addresses into the Add to recipients field. Multiple entries should be separated by a semicolon (;) Click on the Add to Recipients button Page 9 of 12

10 2.2 Selecting contacts from the address book You can select the recipient(s) for an SMS message from the Directory or from your own personal contacts folder. Only entries with valid mobile numbers are displayed in the search results. To search for a contact: Click on the Search Contacts button Under the Address Book heading, select the location from which you want to add the recipients If you are adding recipients from the Directory you can select the option for Distribution under the Contacts heading~ Enter the details for the person/distribution list and click on Search. Matching entries will be listed under the search filter Select the required contact by clicking in the tick box. The contact will then be added to the Selected Contacts at the bottom of the window. Repeat the search process until you have selected all of the required contacts Click on OK to close the window and return to the SMS screen Sending an SMS via It is possible to send an SMS from the OWA view as if it were an . Remember that the character limits still apply to messages sent in this way. Page 10 of 12

11 To send an SMS via Create an new message Address the using the following format: (where number is the valid mobile number for the recipient) Remove your signature from the message Click on Send Page 11 of 12

12 Appendix C Page 12 of 12

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