Digital appointment letters are being trialled at Bradford Teaching Hospitals in a bid to phase out paper.

The letters are currently being piloted in the ophthalmology and paediatrics departments with patients receiving text message notifications instead of a paper letter.

The text message provides them with a link to follow for their digital appointment letter.

Patients can also request their paper letters to be in easy-read, large print or braille.

Andrew Mullan, service improvement lead at the trust, said: “They will receive a text message notifying them that they have a new appointment letter to view online. Then they follow the link in the text message, which takes them to a secure patient portal where they verify their identity with name, date-of-birth and postcode.

“A one-time code is sent to their mobile and then they click to view and download their letter.

“The new system will also give patients the option of changing their appointment if they are unable to make the original time and date. They don’t have to spend time ringing the hospital and finding someone to speak to.”

The technology is being rolled out in partnership with Synertec and DrDoctor.

The trust estimates it will save about £100,000 a year in postage costs alone. Currently, the trust sends out more than 1.5 million letters every year.

Mullan added: “The digital system also shows the trust if the letter remains unread. If that is the case, a paper letter will be sent out automatically as a back-up.

“Sending letters digitally also means we can update information more easily as conditions change – for example during the Covid-19 pandemic where more appointments are via telephone or video or where we ask patients not to turn up at the hospital until the appointed time.”

The digital letters are expected to be rolled out to other departments at the trust at the end of September.

Wahida Jabarzai, delivery manager for DrDoctor, said: “Bradford Teaching Hospitals’ switch to digital letters will lead to fewer missed appointments and better and more timely care for patients. It will also lower the cost of administration, freeing up more resources for patient care.”