Mobile messaging apps

Mobile messaging apps are great at enabling fast team communication and it is fine to use mobile messaging to communicate with colleagues, people you support and families as needed. This includes off the shelf apps like WhatsApp and Telegram where there is no practical alternative and the benefits outweigh the risk. Digital Social Care has worked with NHSX and the Information Commissioner’s Office to produce updated guidance on data protection and information sharing.

Staff can be asked to download the apps on their smartphones and specific ‘chat groups’ (a group where members can be added and all can view the content and swap messages) can be set up quickly and easily. Everyone can then see messages sent out about staff shifts, illness or self-isolation and respond immediately.

Always encourage staff to think about the type of information they are sharing though and with whom. Be wary of personal information shared, especially for those you support.

If staff are using their own device, make sure they take reasonable steps to protect their phone like setting up a strong password, using apps that are encrypted, and turning off notifications when the screen is locked. These are all good steps toward maintaining privacy and confidentiality.

  • Useful for: keeping everyone up to date, offering shifts out rapidly, emergency information communication, morale-boosting.
  • Equipment needed: Staff will need to use their own smartphones or have access to smartphones. These will need to be connected to the internet via WiFi or 3G/4G.
Microsoft Teams

As an emergency measure, NHS Digital and NHS England are fast-tracking applications to gain free access to NHSmail. You can read our guidance on the fast-track application process.

You can access MS Teams with your NHS email address. Teams enables group chat, video calls, upload of files that can be seen by all, and a joint calendar. It can also be accessed remotely via the Teams app. NHS England are asking all care providers to have access to Teams so that GPs and district nurses can contact you for video consultations.

We have more guidance available on how to use MS Teams.

Microsoft has now made Teams free for all businesses and you do not need to have an NHSmail account to access this offer. If you join with an NHSmail account you will be able to quickly message any other NHSmail user from within Teams. This is not possible if you log in with your organisation’s account.

  • Useful for: communication across the team, video calling, diary planning, shared files access
  • Equipment required: At least one computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone which can access the internet. 
Group text

Group text or group messaging is a way of sending one single message to a group of people. It’s important to make sure your group

  • texts stick the point
  • don’t stray into private conversations
  • and have a clear communicated purpose.

You should be sensible about the number of people included in your group text. Group texts are different from group chats or messaging as they go in the form of an SMS using your phone network rather than the internet.

  • Useful for: fast and efficient communication in a highly interactive way that doesn’t require internet connection
  • Equipment required: Any mobile phone as long as it has signal to send texts.