School nurses using text messages to communicate with teenagers were among the winners at the NHS Innovation Challenge Awards on 23 February.
The school nurses from Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust won the Digital Patient and Clinician Engagement award for the implementation of a service that allows 11-19 year olds in the county to receive advice on health, sex, emotional health and wellbeing, bullying and diet among others from nurses via text message.
The nurses teamed up with young people to create ChatHealth. It is monitored by a team of trained nurses. All of the messages are answered with automated texts signposting alternative sources of help out of hours. The system has become so successful that a single nurse can now handle all of the in-hour messaging enquiries from across the country.
Jimmy Endicott, Mobile Media Development Manager at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, said: 'The system is safe, secure and relies on one of the key ways in which young people communicate with each other. It improves their access to the help they need.'
'If every NHS Trust adopted a similar model, as few as 30 school nurses could handle all of the messaging from UK teens, freeing up hundreds of hours of school nurse time for other care duties.'
They will use their prize money of £100,000 and mentoring they receive from the challenge sponsor Health Fabric to look at rolling the system out across the country and possibly to develop a dedicated ChatHealth instant messaging app or virtual clinics and self-help discussion forums via secure video chat.
Other winners at the awards included a programme for South Asian people with Type 2 diabetes in South Birmingham and an online system to identify patients who may be at risk of suffering a mini stroke in Southend.