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chat-healthAugust 5 2015

A text messaging health support service aimed at teenagers is being rolled out nationwide, following its success in the East Midlands.

The ChatHealth NHS Messaging system is to benefit from more than £100,000 from the East Midlands Academic Health Science Network to encourage frontline teams across the UK to improve access to healthcare using digital platforms.

Among the next steps will be to:

  • train staff at new sites, with a focus on how nurses can safeguard service users who are seeking advice and support by sending a message
  • help get new services up and running in schools within three months
  • help ensure no messages from vulnerable service-users go un-answered by providing access to safe and secure text messaging software and proven working practices.

EMAHSN said that Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust has been offering a ChatHealth messaging service for over a year. It has received 3,500 messages from service users seeking health advice and support, “delivering an additional 750 health contacts without impacting nurse’s capacity.” The Trust’s school nursing team offers access to support by text message to 65,000 11-19s and staffs the service with one triage nurse.

Feedback from clinical staff using messaging indicates they are speaking with more new service users across a broader range of issues and are able to intervene earlier to prevent the escalation of care. “The project won an award for improving access to care for underserved communities, such as adolescent males, who are known to be less likely to access healthcare face to face,” says EMAHSN.

Chris Hart, Commercial Director at EMAHSN, said ChatHealth “is a truly inclusive and innovative way for reaching out to patients, making use of technology that the smartphone generation is familiar with. So, we expect lots of interest from teams that support younger people like school nursing and health visiting teams, mental health and sexual health services.”

The Royal College of Nursing has welcomed the scheme. Fiona Smith, Professional Lead for Children and Young People’s Nursing at the RCN, said: “Following the success of text messaging service ChatHealth at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, this investment will help numerous other organisations benefit from this unique method of engaging with young people.

“ChatHealth is a great example of tailoring health services to a specific group who may otherwise be reluctant to come forward. This service encourages young people to discuss their health issues and receive support and advice by using a means of communication they feel comfortable with.”

Links:

EMAHSN announcement     

RCN comment    

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