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Young people encouraged to ‘chat health’ with new text service

Friday, 17 February, 2017
Young people encouraged to ‘chat health’ with new text service

A new text messaging service is encouraging young people across Northumberland and North Tyneside to discuss their health concerns in confidence.

Aimed at 11-19 year olds, Chat Health allows young people to text their school nurse, in confidence, for advice and support. The service deals with all kinds of issues including, mental health, bullying, self-harm, alcohol and drugs, relationships, healthy eating and smoking.

With more and more children and young people using hand held mobile devices in their daily lives, the Chat Health service provides an easy way for them to confidentially ask for help about a range of issues.

Veronica Hetherington, community matron at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This service allows young people to talk anonymously about difficult and sensitive issues that they wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in person. It complements the face to face care that we already provide, but it’s broadening their access to healthcare and allowing us to engage with many more young people who may need our support.

“We help the young person over text if we are able to, or if we feel it needs a face to face consultation we encourage a meeting with their named school nurse. This is about safer outcomes for children and young people and this service allows us to ensure that they are receiving age appropriate advice in a safe environment.”

The Chat Health service has now been rolled out to all secondary schools across Northumberland and North Tyneside. The system is secure, with all messages coming in to one place where it is monitored by a small team of trained school nurses. They then triage and answer all messages, with an automated message being sent if a text is received out of hours. The nurses can also signpost the young person on to other appropriate health care services, if necessary, or offer to see the young person face to face.

Chat Health is already being used by a number of NHS trusts across the country, and its development involved the police, NSPCC and the Royal College of Nursing along with young people.

Those aged between 11-19 years who would like to discuss concerns with a school nurse can text the Chat Health service on: 07507 332 532 in North Tyneside or 07507 332 258 in Northumberland.