Email to SMS Gateway, NHSMail replacement service

A not for profit service for the NHS

Free trial account


From April 2015, the NHSMail SMS gateway service will no longer be provided centrally to the NHS. Each organisation which uses the service will have to make arrangements with commercial providers if they want to continue to do things like:

  • Send appointment reminder messages to patients
  • Send text message health campaigns
  • Alert bank staff of shift availability
  • … and many other uses

What is DrDoctor?

DrDoctor is a new technology company that specialises in and delivers communication processes for the NHS. We can dramatically transform a patient’s experience of healthcare whilst saving the NHS time and money.

Although an email to SMS gateway service is not part of the core offering, DrDoctor already have the technology and infrastructure in place to do this. We have decided to open up our technology on a not-for-profit basis to ensure that an absolutely essential NHS service is not lost. In brief, you can use the service as much as you like and only ever pay for the cost of the messages at our direct wholesale rate (which we regularly (re-)negotiate to get the best price, and will automatically pass on any discounts).

How does it work?

  • Setup an account
  • In your existing applications, simply replace [phonenumber] with [phonenumber]
  • That’s it!

What does it cost?

Our current wholesale price is 2p per SMS sent. We will also charge a small fee to cover external payment and processing costs as follows:

  • 0.1p – Direct debit, prepaid
  • 0.2p – Manual invoicing, prepaid
  • 0.4p – Direct debit, postpaid
  • 0.5p – Manual invoicing, postpaid

There are no setup fees, no minimum volumes, no minimum contracts. If you pre-purchase credit it will not expire. If (when) our wholesale prices drop, we will automatically credit the difference back to your account.

Who else provides an Email to SMS service?

Email to SMS gateway services are highly commoditised. Here is a sample of providers we know about – please feel free to look around at what is available in the market – you can usually negotiate prices with them if you talk to them directly. If you get a good result please share it with us!

Provider Minimum Monthly Volume Best published price (pence)
EE (NHSMail contract) 15000000 1.95 1000000 2.1 Undisclosed 2.3 undisclosed 2.4 500000 2.7 Undisclosed 2.7 Undisclosed 3.4 50000 3.6 50000 3.9 1000000 4 100000 4.9 50000 5

* The content on these websites is neither created by nor endorsed by DrDoctor

Why are we doing this? What does not-for profit mean?

DrDoctor does not make money through the provision of SMS messages. As a result, we have no incentive to try and get you to use our service. This approach is an inherent part of company ethos and is why we are funded by the likes of Bethnal Green Ventures and The Nominet Trust. For our profit-making activities, please visit DrDoctor Appointments

Given all the financial pressures on the NHS, the transfer of costs to the individual provider organisations risks seriously damaging the efficiency of NHS services and will ultimately affect patients. Having spent years working to promote efficiency through the use of technology, we really don’t want to see that happen!

How does DrDoctor get such low prices?

We already handle hundreds of thousands of SMS messages on behalf of the NHS. This gives us a lot of purchasing power. By pooling our existing volumes with the additional volumes from a gateway service, we believe we can further reduce the costs of messages for all the NHS providers we work with. We will always pass on in full any price reductions we negotiate and will only ever charge our direct costs in providing this service. You can ask us for a full break-down at any time. Our prices have steadily dropped as our volumes have increased and will continue to do so.

Technical features

  • Customised Sender ID (can be either text (3-11 characters) or a phone number (upto 16 characters)).
  • Automated message concatenation – you can send messages of upto 1377 characters (though we recommend keeping it short for readability!).
  • Message volume & delivery rate reporting (these are not automated – you can just ask us whenever you want to know)
  • For messages not delivered, we can give you a report of the phone numbers which were not valid (again you have to ask, its not automated).
  • Automated low-balance warning with a customisable threshold
  • Multiple sender email addresses per account (e.g. you can have a mailbox setup for you PALS team, booking centre, etc)

Data Security & Information Governance

Any email to SMS service inevitably involves transmitting data over public networks – this cannot be avoided. The greatest threat by far to SMS communications comes from sending data to the wrong recipient (usually because a patient’s phone number has never been verified or updated). You can either limit the types of data sent (so it doesn’t matter if the data reaches the wrong person) or you can talk to us about how we can improve the quality of your phone number records and verify the authenticity of the recipient of data. We have data centres within the N3 network too should your needs require them.

Quality of service

Not all SMS gateways are equal. Our networks are as close as it is possible to get to a direct connection to the mobile networks without being a mobile network ourselves. This means we get extremely fast delivery times, delivery reports, and the ability to do HLR lookups. It also helps keep our costs down by eliminating intermediaries.