A framework which aims to help NHS organisations to commission communications technology for engaging with patients, citizens and the workforce has been launched. 

The Patient/Citizen Communications and Engagement Solutions framework is replacing the previous Communications, Appointments, Reminders and Alert agreement and has been designed to respond to the need for better pre- and post-appointment communications within the NHS to deal with the backlog of urgent appointments.

Developed by NHS Shared Business Services, the framework should also improve care pathways, support effective clinical care and enhance the patient journey while offering a compliant route to market for NHS and public sector organisations.

Adam Nickerson, senior category manager of digital and IT at NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) said: “With the coronavirus pandemic having added to the complexity of patient appointments and waiting lists, the revised agreement provides NHS organisations with access to market leading communication tools encompassing alerts, reminders and appointment technology that support healthcare professionals to deliver effective and efficient clinical care.”

It covers both one- and two-way communication channels with a range of solutions, including: digital (online) communications, email, SMS, interactive voice response (IVR), agent calls, hybrid mail, surveys & feedback and workforce communications.

Nickerson continued: “Critically, with appointment solutions on offer via the framework encompassing traditional communication methods like phone, mail, email and SMS, alongside appointment technology via digital first communication channels such as patient self-service booking solutions, the framework ensures NHS organisations and care providers can be more inclusive of patient preferences by offering them a greater number of ways in which they can interact, make and respond to medical appointments.”

In addition NHS organisations will be able to use the framework to commission Friends and Family Test surveys to better understand how happy patients are with the service they receive and where improvements could be made,

The framework currently has 29 suppliers awarded a place across nine lots. It is expected to run until 31 October 2023, with an option to extend for two further years.

The products that are offered on NHS SBS’s framework all fit with the Elective Recovery Technology Fund (ERTF) that was announced in October 2021.

The ERTF is a funding boost of £250m with the aim of improving access to cutting-edge technologies, as part of the government’s Build Back Better plan. Through a commitment to innovation it hopes to tackle the backlog of elective surgery.