Patients in Ealing, west London, are soon to receive text messages reminding them about doctor's appointments.

The Ealing Primary Care Trust (PCT) is introducing a text message reminder scheme across 22 surgeries in a bid to reduce the number of missed appointments. The service is free and to sign up, patients register their mobile phone numbers with their GP.

The Hillview Surgery in Perivale, where the scheme was piloted, reported that the system has led to a 30 per cent drop in missed appointments.

"Mobile patient services have proven that they are cost effective and scalable and are, therefore, the way forward in Ealing. We have a diverse population of 360,000 patients registered with GPs in the borough and many already use mobiles to run their daily lives," said Keith Martin, service development manager at Ealing PCT.

Improves service and cuts down on work

He added that the text message system improves service without adding extra work for healthcare staff, and integrates with existing systems used by GPs to book appointments and clinics.

The Trust is using a patient care messaging system named iPlato , and the Orange network.

As well as reminders about appointments, the system can send health messages such as invitations to receive flu jabs or attend asthma clinics, reducing the need for staff to send letters or make phone calls.