Headlines: November 25th, 2004

A Primary Care Trust is to use a mobile phone service to offer sexual health and relationships advice for young women. The service, which will begin in Durham and Chester-le-Street next month is designed to build on the success of a similar system aimed at young men that was launched earlier this year in County Durham.The new service has been funded by the Durham and Chester-le-Street Teenage Pregnancy Local Action Group and will be completely confidential and anonymous.

Young women, aged from 13 to 25, in the area will be able to text a simple address, followed by their particular question and to send the message to a dedicated number. The Sexual Health Outreach Worker will then reply to them – again via text – giving the information, support or advice needed. Telephone numbers will be retained only long enough to reply. Standard text costs will apply for those using the service.

Susan Thompson, an Outreach Worker for Durham and Chester-le-Street Primary Care Trust, said one of the major benefits of the text system was that it offered anonymity to those seeking advice and would be completely confidential. It would allow her to offer professional, personal and appropriate advice to young women at a local level, she said. “The service will be available to all young women in Durham and Chester-le-Street and will give me the opportunity to engage with some young women who would not normally access any type of services,” she added.

The independent Commission for Health Improvement, now re-named the Healthcare Commission, which was set up to help the NHS monitor and improve clinical care across England and Wales, has identified confidential text messaging services for young people on sexual health matters as an example of good practice.