A new texting service to enhance the way young people can access health advice has been launched by Nottinghamshire Healthcare’s School Nursing Service.
With more and more children and young people using hand held mobile devices in their daily lives, the ChatHealth text service is an easy way for young people to confidentially ask for help about a range of issues, or make an appointment with a school nurse. They can also find out how to access other local services including emotional support or sexual health services. In pilot areas in the country such as Leicestershire already using ChatHealth, pupils have said they like using the messaging service because it is less embarrassing, quick and easy, anonymous and non-judgemental.
The texting service went live on 4 July across all of Nottinghamshire for young people aged 11 – 19, with the aim of offering a relevant, accessible method of contact and a flexible way to provide support.
Young people will receive confidential advice on a wide range of issues such as bullying, emotional health and wellbeing, sexual health as well as illnesses. It will allow young people to send messages to a dedicated number which will be delivered to a secure website. Once there, texts will be responded to by Nottinghamshire Healthcare’s School Nursing Team within one working day. The service will be available on Monday to Friday 9.00 am – 4.30 pm excluding bank holidays. During out–of–hours, anyone who texts the service will receive an automated message with advice on where to get help if their question is urgent.
The ChatHealth number is 07507 329952.
Peter Hunt, Divisional General Manager for Children and Young People, Nottinghamshire Healthcare said “I’m really excited about this innovation. We are constantly looking to improve our services and how young people access them. ChatHealth will allow young people, who receive our services, to contact school nurses more easily and with the confidence that they will be responded to confidentially and quickly”.
The philosophy of the school health service is all inclusive and is aimed at all children and young people aged 0-19 regardless of whether they receive mainstream education. The service will also support young people as individuals as they move into adulthood.
Helen Firth, Professional Service Lead (Countywide Health Services) for Children and Young People, Nottinghamshire Healthcare added “This service is welcomed by School Health Teams across the county as it will enable young people to easily access advice and support. Texting will give young people privacy and control over how they communicate and it will enable us to support young people who would not normally have the confidence to ask for support. The service has been really successful in other parts of the country.”
Use of texting is also supported by research by The British Youth Council, which found that a text service is an easy way for young people to connect with the service and recommended that technology e.g. texting and emailing should be used to allow young people to contact their school nursing service confidentially and at a minimum young people should have a phone number.
Kerrie Adams, Senior Public Health and Commissioning Manager (Nottinghamshire County Council Integrated Commissioning Hub) said “When asked, young people often tell us that they would like to be able to access confidential advice and support through alternative sources such as text messages or via the internet. The Nottinghamshire County Council Young People’s Health Strategy (2015) fully supports innovation such as this and recognises that it will enable more young people to access their School Nursing service. It will give young people the confidence to know that they are in control of seeking a confidential service from a qualified professional who they can trust”
As well as meeting the ‘You’re Welcome’ standards around easy accessibility to confidential advice for young people, the new text service also aims to:
- Offer a timely and efficient school nursing service to all young people
- Increase the visibility of school nursing service and improve the quality of interventions offered
- Increase the likelihood of school nurses engaging with hard to reach groups such as marginalised and socially excluded people – also covered in the You’re Welcome standards
- Increase uptake of health services by young males
- Offer early intervention, to improve health outcomes and prevent escalation of issues.
For more information please contact Helen Firth on 01623 781822.