It’s all part of the ChatHealth service that dozens of NHS organisations have adopted to give parents and young people more choice over how they anonymously access advice and support.
Experienced local public health nurses will be on hand to respond swiftly to texts between 9am and 5pm on weekdays – apart from bank holidays. They will reply to texts sent at night on the next working day, including during school holidays.
More than 30 of our health visitors and school health nurses are being trained to use the service.
Three lines for three distinct groups
The Oxfordshire service, which launches on February 14, will have three numbers – each aimed at meeting the needs of specific groups. These are parents of children aged 0-4, parents of children aged 5-11 and young people themselves aged 11-19. Messages will be assigned to the most appropriately skilled healthcare professional rostered for the service that day.
We’re calling the first two numbers ‘Oxfordshire Parentline’ and the service for young people ‘Oxfordshire ChatHealth’.
The rostered health visitor or school nurse responding to the text will either provide information or advice or signpost the user to appropriate services or sources of information.
To ensure parents and young people do not send texts before the service is up and running, we are not publishing the numbers before the launch on Valentine’s Day.
Widening choice in seeking support
Speaking about the young people’s texting service, Margaret Fallon, operational manager for the school nursing service, said:
“Experience elsewhere has shown that young people sometimes prefer talking about sensitive issues through mobile technology rather than in a face-to-face discussion with a school health nurse.
“If they remain worried or it’s appropriate for them to see a school health nurse, they can use the texting service to confirm an appointment if they provide the nurse with their details.
“With Oxfordshire uniquely basing its school nurses actually in schools, pupils know they can already text their nurse. However, this service means they can do it anytime – including in the evening or during school holidays. That opens the way for them to get in touch at the moment they are having concerns or feel the need to get something off their chest.”
Meanwhile Carole Jones, operational manager of the health visiting service, said busy parents will value the service’s convenience as a way of getting professional advice and information.
“Research involving other Trusts who use the service found that some 94% of parents said they received a useful response. ChatHealth does not replace face-to-face appointments – instead it lowers some of the barriers that may hinder people seeking help or advice. It means people can start conversations earlier – making it less likely they will escalate.”
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Published: 4 February 2022