New virtual school nursing service ‘Chat Health’

Published on 23/05/2016

First Community Health and Care School Nursing service in East Surrey is introducing a virtual school nurse service as an integral part of the new school nurse model.

With more and more children and young people using hand held mobile devices in their daily lives, the Chat Health, text service is an easy way for young people to confidentially ask for help about a range of issues, or make an appointment with a school nurse. They can also find out how to access other local services including emotional support or sexual health services. In pilot areas such as Leicestershire that are already using Chat Health, pupils have said they like using the messaging service because it is:

• Less embarrassing

• Quick and easy

• Anonymous

• Non-judgemental


Launched on Monday 23rd May, Chat Health will allow young people in East Surrey to send text messages to a dedicated number which will be delivered to a secure website. Once there, texts will be responded to by the First Community School Nursing Team within one working day. The service will be available on Monday to Friday 9am – 5.00pm excluding bank holidays. During out–of–hours, anyone who texts the service will receive an automated message with advice on where to get help if their question is urgent.


The service will initially be launched for secondary school aged pupils. Anyone aged 11-19 can receive confidential advice on a wide range of issues such as bullying, emotional health and wellbeing, sexual health as well as illnesses.

Trudy Mills, Associate Director for Children’s Services said:


“Chat Health improves the choice for young people on when and how to access confidential help and advice. It has been shown that texting can break down social barriers, making it easier for students to seek help from a school nurse. We are looking forward to launching this new service in collaboration with our secondary schools.”


The launch comes just two weeks after the First Community 0-19 Team launched their first Advice Line. Parents are encouraged to call and ask questions about their child’s health and wellbeing. The healthcare professionals are able to answer on a range of issues such as minor illness, fever management, breastfeeding, behaviour or to signpost to other appropriate services. The initiative is intended to make child health and development advice easily accessible and to discuss issues with concerned parents. The Advice Line is open 8am – 5pm on weekdays (excluding bank holidays) and has two 0-19 practitioners. 


Jayne White, Clinical Lead for 0-19 Children’s Services said:


“The first week of our new advice line was successful and we received 123 calls in the first four days. 88 calls were general enquiries and 35 calls were for specific health advice. The 0-19 practitioners have embraced the new way of working and initial feedback from clients on the calls has been positive. The aim of the new service delivery is to enable clients to access the 0-19 practitioners in a timely manner when concerns arise regarding the health and wellbeing of their child. The new number for the advice line is 01883 340922.”


Local Baby Clinics have also been updated with the introduction of Child Health Drop-in Sessions. These invite parents to meet a member of the 0-19 team to discuss any questions they may have about their child. These may include topics such as development, sleeping, preparation for school, introducing family foods or immunisations. The clinics run at various times Monday – Thursday and are held at multiple locations across East Surrey. Parents are able to drop-in to any of the sessions across the area to get health advice in a safe and friendly environment.