Celebrations are taking place after Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust’s (LPT) confidential ChatHealth text messaging service was crowned winners of not one, but two, top NHS awards at the AHSN Network and NHS Confederation’s Innovate Awards.

The service, which enables people to speak to health professionals using a specialist text messaging system – anonymously if they wish, beat off hundreds of entries to be given the Innovation Spread Award and also received the coveted, top gong of winner of the Innovation Champion of Year Award, 2022.

Angela Hillery, chief executive of LPT, said: “We are extremely proud to be given these titles for ChatHealth and I’d personally like to thank the team of hard-working, compassionate and innovative people behind its success. Since its initial development in 2012, ChatHealth has continued to grow. Many people have told us how convenient the service is and how comfortable and easy it is to get the help they need. Not only does the service support children, young people and parents across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, providing access to expert clinicians, but we also work with NHS Trusts across the UK who have adopted ChatHealth to benefit more than six million people a year.”

In recent years and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, interest in LPT’s ChatHealth innovation has grown nationwide. Around 70 other NHS Trusts and healthcare organisations have adopted the shared technology and best practice to implement ChatHealth-powered messaging services across their own localities.

Laura Serra, marketing manager for the Digital Health Transformation Service based at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, the support team behind ChatHealth, said: “We are so excited that we not only won the Innovation Spread Award, but were also overall winners of this year’s awards, which is such an honour and a huge achievement. We hope that all the fantastic and caring health teams who have adopted ChatHealth are joining in with the celebrations. We all share in our one goal and that is to make healthcare more accessible to people in our communities. We particularly saw the benefit of our technology during the Covid-19 pandemic, when more people than ever used our digital services to access advice and support.

“ChatHealth is constantly innovating and adapting to meet people’s needs – and we are seeing Trusts across the UK use our technology creatively to provide specialist and targeted support. This includes the newly launched ChatAutism service, which allows autistic people in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland – and their families and carers to speak to specialist health professional. We are excited for what the future holds for this service and can’t wait to see how we can develop it even further.”

LPT’s ChatHealth-powered healthcare messaging services include:

  • Healthy Together’s 0-19 (Health Visiting and School Nursing) ChatHealth, for young people aged 11-19 and Parentline for parents and carers of 0–19-year-olds
  • The Specialist Autism Team’s (SAT) ChatAutism offer, for anyone living in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland who has an autism diagnosis
  • The Perinatal Mental Health offer, Mum’s Mind, for new and expectant mums
  • Central Access Point’s ChatMentalHealth, for anyone needing mental health support
  • Musculoskeletal (MSK) Therapy service, which used mass messaging to contact waiting list referrals.

Predominantly used in public health nursing services – 60% of school nursing teams and 35% of health visiting teams now offer ChatHealth services in the UK – its potential has further spread to different types of services such as:

  • Sexual health services in Wolverhampton, Bradford, Kirklees, Northamptonshire, Dorset, Lincolnshire and West London
  • Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) offering mental health support for young people at selected schools in North Yorkshire, Gloucestershire and Bromley
  • Specialist care services for patients referred for treatment for children’s diabetes and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT).

In 2021-2022, a combined total of 87,132 messaging conversations took place nationwide via ChatHealth. Feedback from people who use the service is overwhelming positive, with them often saying how it’s a more convenient, comfortable and easier way to get help – and showing appreciation that messaging conversations can be carried out anonymously if preferred.

Richard Stubbs, Vice Chair of the AHSN Network and Chief Executive of Yorkshire and Humber AHSN, who led coordination of the awards, said: “Well done to all the teams and organisations named as winners or highly commended in the Innovate Awards. It is really important that we continuously recognise, showcase and celebrate the fantastic and innovative activity being delivered across the NHS.

“We are delighted with the response that we’ve had to this year’s awards both in terms of the volume of entries and also the impressively high standard of the applications. Recognising and celebrating these great case studies through the awards is only the start of the work. We also need to make sure that the learning spreads to everywhere in the NHS where it has the potential to improve patient care.”

Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive at NHS Confederation, added: “The past few years have been challenging for everyone working in health and care, so it is more important than ever to recognise and celebrate the efforts and achievements of health and care teams.

“These awards have celebrated the exceptional efforts in helping transform health and care. They give the recognition, acknowledgement and appreciation individuals, teams and organisations deserve for leading the way in health and care innovation. Thank you to all those teams that took time to enter the awards this year – we hope to build on the success of this year’s awards next year.”

To find out more about ChatHealth or to start a conversation with a health professional visit: chathealth.nhs.uk/