Getting the Message Across - textNHS healthcare teams teams in the East Midlands are being offered the opportunity to introduce a messaging service which provides safe and secure texting between clinicians and service users.

The East Midlands Academic Health Science Network has invested more than £100,000 into the ChatHealth NHS messaging service to encourage frontline teams across the UK to improve access to healthcare using digital platforms. The funding will cover set-up of messaging programmes in a number of NHS Trusts that want to licence use of the innovative messaging service.

ChatHealth project lead, Jimmy Endicott, said: "We are delighted that the East Midlands Academic Health Science Network is making it possible for us to diffuse the innovation in such a cost effective way. It’s great news for NHS teams that want to improve access to support and for service users who otherwise might not engage with healthcare."

Find out more: How texting is changing the way teenagers access healthcare

As a result of the funding, the ChatHealth team will be able to provide assisted service transformations for a number of adopting organisations including:
• training staff at new sites which focuses on how nurses can safeguard service users who are seeking advice and support by sending a message;
• project implementations support to help get new services up and running in schools within three months;
• access to safe and secure text messaging software and proven working practices which help ensure no messages from vulnerable service-users go un-answered.

Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust has been offering a ChatHealth messaging service for over a year. During this time it has received 3,500 messages from service users seeking health advice and support, delivering an additional 750 health contacts without impacting nurse’s capacity. The Trust’s school nursing team offers access to support by text message to 65,000 11-19s and staffs the service with one triage nurse.

The project also won an award for improving access to care for underserved communities, such as adolescent males, who are known to be less likely to access healthcare face to face.

Chris Hart, Commercial Director at EMAHSN said: "ChatHealth won one of our Innovation in Healthcare awards last year and it is great to be able to provide extra support to enable the spread of the service throughout the East Midlands and beyond.

"It is a truly inclusive and innovative way for reaching out to patients, making use of technology that the smartphone generation is familiar with. So, we expect lots of interest from teams that support younger people like school nursing and health visiting teams, mental health and sexual health services."

ChatHealth is now in use in a number of NHS Trusts across the UK which want to improve access to healthcare for mobile device users. Guidance from the NHS England encourages the NHS to "embrace mobile technology to connect more easily with tech savvy service users".