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11 July 2017

Texting service helps Wiltshire children stay healthy

person holding a mobile phone

A new text-based advice service will help hundreds of children and young people in Wiltshire with their health needs or issues through one simple text to a school nurse following the launch in Wiltshire Children's Community Services.

The service, run by the School Nursing Service, allows 11 to 19-year-olds to text a concern or question on anything from bullying and sexual health to problems with alcohol and drugs to a school nurse who will then respond.

This will support young people to access help, as early as possible, in a way that works for them and offers an alternative to a face to face appointment. The service can be totally anonymous, unless it is thought that the young person is at risk.

Young people can text a text to a school nurse for quick and easy health advice straight to their phone on 07840 635 513 from 9am-5pm Monday to Friday with automatic bounce-backs responding to incoming messages out of hours. A school nurse then responds to their questions and helps them with their needs. 

Children and young people from the Wiltshire Assembly of Youth, Children in Care Council and Healthwatch Young Listeners were also involved in designing the tool kit which will be seen and used across Wiltshire in schools, colleges and community centres.

Julia Quartley, Head of Integrated Therapy for Wiltshire Children's Community Services, said: "By increasing choice in accessing the service it will increase young people's confidence and we believe that implementing ChatHealth across Wiltshire will help us to respond directly to the needs of our young people and to speak to them where they want to speak to us."

Alice Clay, Virgin Care's Innovation & Transformation Manager, who has led the introduction of ChatHealth in Wiltshire, said: "After working with local Wiltshire youth groups, we found that more and more children and young people are using mobile devices to look after their daily lives. They told us they prefer to communicate using technology, and feel less confident when talking to a healthcare professional face-to-face, particularly during the first contact."

Wiltshire Council jointly funds the children's community services with the Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group. Cabinet member for children Laura Mayes said: "There are many pressures on young people these days and it's important we make it as easy as possible for them to be able to voice their concerns and receive help and support. I'm pleased so many of our young people have been involved in designing the tool kit and I'm looking forward to hearing about its success in the coming months."

The School Nursing Service is a part of Wiltshire Children's Community Services and Virgin Care has run the services, which are part of the NHS and free at the point of use, since April 2016 introducing new technology and ensuring a consistent service across the county. It took over services from five providers, bringing them together as a Wiltshire-focused service for the first time and is now set about implementing its five year improvement roadmap. 

You can listen to Laura Mayes and Wiltshire Assembly of Youth member Bea talk about the new service on BBC Wiltshire at 2:10:50 into the programme.

Last updated: 11 July 2017 | Last reviewed: 11 July 2017

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