The number of young people able to access ChatHealth – a secure text messaging service run by school nurses across the country – has now reached 1 million, that’s one in seven 11-19 year olds.
ChatHealth is a web-based text messaging service that young people of secondary school age can use to access confidential advice from school nurses. It is now available through 30 organisations across the UK, including Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust which introduced the service in February 2016 to cater for children and young people who increasingly use handheld mobile devices.
Lorraine Chadwick, Service Integration Manager at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said, “ChatHealth is such a valuable tool because it makes it easier for us to reach and support vulnerable young people. All the feedback we receive emphasises how much young people appreciate confidential and discreet access to health professionals. There are some health issues that young people find embarrassing to talk to nurses face-to-face about. ChatHealth deals with this problem in a convenient, confidential and non-invasive way. It’s a contemporary solution that is resulting in more and more young people contacting school nurses with their concerns. Many young people use the service outside school hours and students who want to see their NHS school nurses face-to-face will still be able to do so.”
ChatHealth was co-designed with both young people and school nurses to ensure that it effectively meets the needs of young people and health professionals.
School nursing services adopting ChatHealth have found that it significantly increases the number of young people aged 11-19 that they can reach. It is also a helpful way to engage with teenagers who might feel less comfortable speaking face to face with nurses about embarrassing or sensitive issues. For example, adolescent males are more likely to ask a question by sending a text message.
Young people report that they like ChatHealth because is a quick and easy way to get advice about their physical and emotional health, and that they can do this anonymously. ChatHealth has clear safeguarding procedures in place in the event that young people disclose that they are at risk of harm.
ChatHealth staff liaised with school staff, parents, governors, clinical leads, school nurses, safeguarding colleagues, the Police, the NSPCC, the Royal College of Nursing and some sexual health message-based helplines in introducing the system. The service is available Monday to Friday from 9am to 4.45pm using the telephone number 07507 330510 in the Lancashire County Council footprint and 07507 330509 in Blackburn with Darwen.