App helps teenagers seek advice from school nurses

A smartphone app, credited with encouraging more boys to seek help and easing the pressure on school nurses, has won a wider roll-out after a trial in Leicestershire

Children and teenagers in Leicestershire can now contact school nurses to request confidential advice on sensitive issues via a secure mobile app or by text message.

A pilot service has been available to more than 4,000 pupils at schools and colleges in Leicestershire for the past six months. From March, it will be rolled out to cover all full-time students aged 11 to 19 in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

School nurses deal with enquiries on health and wellbeing issues, including drugs, alcohol, self-harm, bullying and sexual and mental health. Pupils sending questions via the system, developed by Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (LPT), can choose whether to include their name or remain anonymous. Staff said many pupils are happier to ask questions via the service, before having a face-to-face appointment if required.

Jimmy Endicott, mobile media development manager at LPT, said: “Nurses unanimously agree that we have increased service reach, particularly among hard to reach groups and adolescent males. They feel we’re saving time against talking on the phone and saving time against face-to-face care. They can use messaging and social media to get through lots of enquiries about certain things quickly and that’s freeing up their time to deliver face-to-face care where it’s really needed.”

Maggie Clark, senior school nurse at LPT, said some nurses had initially been worried about potential issues of record-keeping, confidentiality or being made to feel unsafe. But she said the issues had been addressed and nurses can now deal with more queries without feeling their workload has increased. “It has not replaced anything we’re doing, but has given an extra way to do it,” she said.