Good communication is the foundation of quality care, but recent studies have shown more than half of people have experienced poor communication from the NHS.

If you think about any experience you’ve had as a customer or service user, lack of communication can be frustrating and taint your customer experience. Often, what many successful private services do well is they communicate to customers clearly, and regularly and have automated processes in place, which send timely and responsive updates. While NHS secondary care is complex, there could be something to learn from these simple communication practices.

Poor or lack of communication can undermine the patient experience, reducing trust in services and increasing patient anxiety. It also adds to the administrative burden of already pressured services and the health and care system.

For example, the communication gap commonly experienced after a patient has been referred from primary to secondary care services often leaves patients in limbo, with no communication about the status of their referral for months or even years. Consequently, services receive an influx of enquiries and calls regarding the status of their referral, exacerbating existing challenges. One Trust reported that 30% of their outpatient calls were from patients for this reason alone.

This challenge also places increased pressure on GPs, with reports that one in five referrals bounce back to GP services – common failings include missing referrals, referrals being rejected by hospitals due to minimum data requirements not being met, or appointments booked but not then communicated with the patient.


A report published by DEMOS last year highlighted that polling in 2023 showed: 

  • 17% of people did not know whether a referral made for them had been lost 
  • 18% did not know who to contact about care or treatment once a referral had been made 
  • One in four (26%) have had to chase a referral to ensure they were seen 
  • 30% said poor communication damaged their trust in the NHS. 


So, if good communication is the cornerstone of excellent care and a way to mend wavering public trust, what processes can the NHS implement to support this in a complex health and care system? As an NHS owned digital health company, we are working with NHS Trusts to create  initiatives that can help promote effective communication and a smoother patient experience.


Virtual Greetings for patients with eMeet & Greet

eMeet & Greet is NHS Health Call’s digital solution that sends patients a virtual greeting via SMS or synthetic voice call l to acknowledge that their referral to secondary care services has been received.

It is a simple digital solution that improves communication, provides patient assurance, and promotes self-service to deliver more efficient health care.

“eMeet & Greet is like a virtual handshake, to say we’ve got your referral, you’re in our system, and we know you are waiting for care.”

It’s a simple concept  but it can go a long way toward providing patients with acknowledgement and peace of mind from the onset of their care journey.

The solution has been designed to support patient communication best practices and relieve the administrative pressure on Trust administrative teams by reducing the call volume for services.


Further, develop Patient Engagement Portals

Patient Engagement Portals (PEP) offer a huge opportunity for Trusts to transform patient communication by taking a digital-first approach to deliver personalised care.

Patient Engagement Portals  enable services to share more information digitally with patients – and gather feedback from them – about their individual care, appointments, and wait times than ever before.

As a digital front door to the NHS, accessed via the NHS App, Patient Engagement Portals are already revolutionising the patient experience, and new functionality offers new opportunities. Health Call’s Patient Engagement Portal, MyHealthCall PEP, has the extended functionality to create bespoke digital questionnaires via the NHS App. These can be used by Trust directorates to meet elective recovery targets through Waiting List Validation, and inform service delivery and design through the coordinated collection of Friends & Family scoring.

For example, digital form integration within the NHS App for Waiting List Validation can foster effective communication with patients while they wait for their appointment by checking in and providing an opportunity for two-way communication, such as asking if their condition has changed and whether they still require care.

eMeet and Greet can also be integrated with MyHealthCall PEP, and digital questionnaire capabilities to enable an end-to-end digital patient journey through the NHS App . Health Call’s joined-up solutions can help clinicians communicate more clearly, with greater numbers of patients, and enable patients to access the information they need quickly and easily when it suits them.

In an increasingly digital world, where 90% of adults own a mobile phone, Patient Engagement Portals provide an opportunity to reach more patients and communicate in a more personalised way.

eMeet & Greet shows that technology-enabled communications don’t need to be huge fancy pieces of tech or processes. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple process, such as a text message, to let you know your referral has been received to make an impact.

If you would like further information on either of these products or NHS Health Call, contact [email protected].



Preventing-needless-harms-caused-by-poor-comms-in-the-NHS-1.pdf (

‘One in five’ patient referrals bounced back to GPs, warns watchdog – Pulse Today

What patients want: a vision for the NHS in 2030 | Healthwatch