Oxford Health Launches New Texting Services For Parents and Teenagers

Henley parents and young people can text experienced school nurses and health visitors for support and advice from 14 February.

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has developed the initiative to encourage earlier contact with health professionals and will not replace face-to-face appointments.

The Trust’s health visitors will respond on the same or next working day to parents of 0-4 year olds who contact Oxfordshire ParentLine seeking reassurance or information on health-related issues.

Parents and carers with children aged 5-11 will be able to text Oxford Health’s school nurses for advice on a separate number.

Meanwhile, young people aged 11-19 will have the chance to hold confidential text discussions with school nurses using the Oxford Health’s ChatHealth text number – and agree an appointment time to see their school nurse when that’s appropriate.

Dozens of NHS organisations already use the award-winning ChatHealth service first developed by Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust – and it has proven popular with parents and young people in those areas.

Nicola Taylor, service manager for Oxford Health’s Children’s Preventative Care Services, said: “ChatHealth has proved its worth as a valuable additional source of advice and reassurance or a first step towards seeking treatment and support.

“Many young people feel more comfortable talking about sensitive issues through mobile technology rather than in a face-to-face discussion with a school nurse.

“Meanwhile, busy parents – especially those who are working – value the convenience of the messaging service and getting advice, information or reassurance quickly.

“We are really excited about some of the results that ChatHealth services have achieved elsewhere and we’re confident it will have the same positive impact in Oxfordshire.”

Evidence in other parts of the country shows that the texting service also encourages earlier contact with a health professional.

Ms Taylor says: “ChatHealth and ParentLine provide another route for parents and young people to access experienced, local clinicians with real expertise in these fields for advice and support. The earlier people contact a health professional about any health issue the better the outcome is.

“The services will not replace face-to-face contact where that’s needed but we know that this generation of parents and young people often turn first to their phones or computers for advice. We are responding to those changes.”