School nurses are tapping into the digital world by providing young people with a new text messaging advice service.
Chat Health has been rolled out across secondary schools in Hertfordshire to allow those aged 11 to 19 years the chance to ask for help confidentially on a range of issues.
Lynda Edwards, a specialist school health nurse with the Herts Community NHS Trust, said: “The majority of young people in this age range own a mobile telephone and will find using it an easy way of communicating with a health professional if they do have any worries or concerns about their health, or other issues that may be affecting them.
“We have already seen a number of students using the service to ask for confidential advice about health issues and if needed we can signpost to another area of support that may be more appropriate to help.”
Some of the advice the school nurses would touch on includes getting and staying healthy, self-esteem, relationships and sexual health.
Lynda added: “There are robust safeguarding measures in place should we feel the young person is at high risk from the information we receive and judge it necessary to be able to protect the young person.”
Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust school nursing teams are highly trained to offer evidence-based health advice and focus on preventative measures.
Their aim is to educate young people to live healthier lifestyles.
Lynda said: “The school nurses have held assemblies to promote Chat Health and posters and cards with the service number highlighted have been handed out.
“We are very pleased with how the schools have welcomed this initiative as an additional, modern and forward thinking way to support our young people.”
Text messages sent to the dedicated number – 07480635050 – are delivered to a secure website.
From here they are responded to by a school nurse on duty for Chat Health.
The service runs from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday including the school holidays.
After 5pm and on weekends, the service is covered by a bounce back message explaining where to get support or help. Emergency numbers are provided in the bounce back message with signposting to their GP or local A&E department if their issue is urgent.
Texts are replied to as soon as possible during normal working hours but there is a 24-hour window to reply.