Children and young people aged 11-19 across the county can now seek confidential advice and support on a range of health and wellbeing issues affecting them at the touch of a button.
It is all thanks to a new text messaging service called ChatHealth, which has been launched by Dorset HealthCare, and gives young people in school Year 7 and above the opportunity to send questions via SMS directly from their mobile phone to the ChatHealth School Nursing Team on 07480 635511.
The service provides advice, information and guidance, and can signpost those who use it to additional services if necessary.
Dawn Campbell is Children’s Services Manager at Dorset HealthCare. She said: “For the first time children and young people across the county can access confidential advice, information and guidance from specially trained nurses who have their health and wellbeing at the heart of everything they do.
“Children and young people have often told us that they want to be able to access support quickly when they need it, without the need for face to face contact, travelling to health venues or having to worry about what their friends or family think.”
ChatHealth will provide advice and guidance on everything from relationships, anxiety, depression and body image to stress, alcohol, self-harm and smoking.
Jo Wilson at Public Health Dorset, said: “The launch of ChatHealth is an exciting addition to the Pan Dorset School Nursing service, making it even easier for young people to access the information and support they need digitally in order to have good health and wellbeing.
“This is a really positive step in our local transformation programme for school nursing, demonstrating a commitment by all partners involved to better respond to the needs of children and young people in an innovative and timely way”.
The ChatHealth service is available Monday to Friday between 8.30am-4.30pm, including school holidays and excluding bank holidays.
If a child or young person sends a text outside these hours they will receive an automated message with advice on where to get help if they require it urgently. The ChatHealth nurse will reply to the message when the service reopens.
ChatHealth runs alongside Dorset HealthCare’s normal School Nursing Service, and children can still see their school nurse face to face if they wish.