Hello, my name is Nellie

Nellie is a free SMS service that can help with your general physical and mental health while you’re staying at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All you need to do is text the word covid to 0427 741 876. For three weeks, Nellie will check in with you each day and send supportive tips. 

Who is Nellie? 

Nellie is a free, automated SMS (text message) service run by the South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network, a government-funded organisation that works with local general practices and other primary health providers to improve the health of the community.  

The messages in Nellie’s COVID-19 program were written by doctors, nurses, and allied health clinicians, using current government guidelines for reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 and how to look after yourself if you have an infection or are staying safe at home. 

What is Nellie? 

Nellie is an SMS service which sends you messages to help you with both your physical and mental health while you’re self-isolating (for people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19), or just staying at home to lower the risk of spread. If you report worsening/developing symptoms, Nellie will also recommend you seek medical care. The COVID-19 program is time-limited and will automatically end after three weeks.  

Who will use my phone number? Where is it stored?  

Your phone number is securely stored on an Australian server and is only used as required for the purpose of operating the Nellie service: 1) to register an individual record in the Nellie service; 2) send and receive the messages according to the Nellie COVID-19 program.

No individual-level or identifying data, including your number, will be passed on to a third party. Overall reports about uptake, and usefulness of Nellie across South Eastern Melbourne may be shared with government and other government-funded organisations.  

You do not provide any identifiable information to Nellie, so we don’t know your name or anything about you, other than your phone number. We do ask for your postcode, which is purely for evaluation of the Nellie service.  

For more detail, see our Privacy Policy.  

Will you supply my phone number to third  parties, and will I start to get lots of unwanted calls/texts? 

No, you will only get text messages from the Nellie service. You can opt out at any time by replying with STOP. 

Does the information I put into Nellie get shared with the government?  

We may share evaluation reports with the government. For example, the number of people using the Nellie service, the postcode coverage, grouped percentages of wellbeing responses, and percentages of usage, such as the proportion who asked Nellie for more information.  None of this information can identify you or is about you personally. 

How do I opt out? 

You can opt out at any time by replying with STOP. However, the program is time-limited and the messages will automatically end after 3 weeks.  

If I don’t want to continue, will my phone number still be stored?  

Yes, your record will remain in the database but it will not be used for any other reason other than the Nellie COVID-19 program. If you reply STOP to Nellie, you will not receive any more messages.  

What if I have a heart condition/other condition as well as other symptoms? Can Nellie help me? 

Nellie will only help you in relation to looking after yourself while you stay safe at home in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.  You should continue to look after any other health conditions as you would normally, including seeking urgent medical attention according to your health action plan as set by your doctor. Nellie does not give clinical advice.

Do I need to tell my doctor I am using Nellie?  

No, but it’s always helpful to your healthcare providers to know about how you are managing your health. 

If I get infected with COVID-19, is it Nellie’s fault?  

Nellie gives public health advice as published by the government to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The aim is to encourage you to stay safe at home and to follow physical distancing advice, hand hygiene advice, and measures to reduce the likelihood of picking up and passing on the virus. The advice cannot guarantee that you will not be exposed to the virus, only reduce the risk that you will. Nellie does not give clinical advice.

Does Nellie know where I live and other information about me?  

Nellie will ask you for your postcode to proceed with the service, and this is to help us evaluate usage across our catchment. The only other essential information we need is your mobile number so you can interact with Nellie using text messaging. 

Does it cost anything? 

Nellie is provided as a service by the South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network free of charge. If your mobile plan is fully inclusive of unlimited text messages (which most packages are) there is no additional cost for using Nellie. If you are using a mobile plan that charges for each message you send, then your carrier will charge the standard rate for each reply that you send to Nellie.  

Will Nellie tell me if I need to be screened for COVID-19?  

Nellie will ask you at the start whether you have flu-like symptoms. If you say yes, she will contact you each day to see how you are feeling. If you start to feel much worse, she will prompt you to seek medical attention. However, you should always seek medical attention if you start to feel very unwell. Nellie does not give clinical advice.

Can Nellie send something to my employer to tell them I don’t have COVID-19?  


Will Nellie tell me what medications to take if I get symptoms?  

No, this is considered to be clinical advice and you should ask your healthcare provider (your GP or pharmacist) about suitable medications. 

Can I print a record of Nellie to show my family/friends/GP etc?  

No, you will only receive SMS messages. But, all the messages sent to or received from Nellie will be available in your phone message history. 

Where can I get more information or give feedback?

You can provide feedback via our feedback form.

You can also call South Eastern Melbourne PHN’s digital health team on ph: 03 8514 4460 (during business hours) or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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