Musician’s life kept in harmony thanks to innovative text system

Innovative text system

Lanarkshire’s answer to Johnny Cash has revealed how the power of text has kept his life in harmony during ill health.

John Stalker (54), from Hamilton, was a long distance driver who – inspired by the Man in Black – sang and played guitar around local music halls and clubs in his spare time. However, life as he knew it was changed forever when, after bouts of increasing breathlessness and a persistent cough, John was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 2011.

COPD is the name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic asthma. John had to retire from his job, but ongoing medical support, including an innovative new text message system – which links patients directly to NHS Lanarkshire respiratory nurses to help manage their condition – has given him a crucial boost.

“When something like this happens it affects your confidence profoundly – especially when you’re used to performing. The text message system, however, has given me an extra layer of reassurance and a sense of regaining control. Help and advice is only a text away.”

The system is known as Florence and is free for the patient to use. COPD patients, who can be of any age over 16 years, text details such pulse and oxygen levels and receive texts back with advice and reminders, all based on the latest readings and their individual care. If the symptoms worsen an alert is also sent to the specialist nurse allowing them to respond by phone, text or visit as required.

John had 11 hospital admissions last year due to his condition.

Since starting using the text message system in January he’s only been admitted once as he was able to initiate treatment and specialist support earlier – from his own home. Patient safety is paramount at NHS Lanarkshire and whist traditional hospital care is still available John has specialist equipment at home to help him with his breathing.

“Having support like this – including the specialist nurses a text away – is all about freedom and retaining independence, which is crucial. “Although I’m not able to sing at length and visit clubs, I can still play the guitar- which I feel is a vital outlet I’m still able to enjoy.”

The innovative scheme is part of the European-wide initiative United4Health, which is geared to using new technology to improve healthcare. NHS Lanarkshire along with North and South Lanarkshire Council are partners and the initiative comes at a pivotal time.

A new Act requires health boards and local authorities to integrate their adult health and social care services. A key aim of integration is to provide person-centred planning and delivery, so that people get the right advice, support and care in the right place and at the right time.

Morag Hearty of NHS Lanarkshire, United4Health programme Manager, added: “This is just one of a raft of systems being introduced to get patients more involved in custom designed, personalised healthcare which can only increase independent living.”

To find out more about United4Health and the Florence text programme, email Morag Hearty on or speak to your respiratory nurse. Similar supports are also available for heart failure patients.

Walk the line:

John’s life-long love of country and western music has been inspired by the greats, in particular Johnny Cash. “My favourite tracks are Walk The Line and I’ve Got Stripes – there’s a story behind every song. “In the early 80s I played guitar in a band called Trio Plus One continuing as a solo artist in a lot of working men’s clubs,” he explained“. I played under the name, John MaRoadie – on account of the fact that my solo career was launched after I was helping a local keyboard player out as his roadie!” John laughed.

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