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Doctors on call for txt msg teenagers

MOBILE phone text messaging is to be used in a pioneering scheme to give teenagers in Wirral medical advice direct from their doctor.

MOBILE phone text messaging is to be used in a pioneering scheme to give teenagers in Wirral medical advice direct from their doctor.

The scheme, thought to be the first of its kind in the country, is being piloted by Birkenhead Primary Care Group.

Youngsters will be able to text questions to health professionals and receive almost instant advice and information via their mobile phone.

Organisers hope the confidential nature of "texting" will encourage many teenagers who are too embarrassed to meet doctors face to face to seek medical help.

Scheme co-ordinator John Haddow, practice manager at Moreton Health Clinic, said: "The idea is that we are playing into the hands of the teenagers. There can be all sorts of problems for youngsters trying to see a doctor. It can be embarrassing, they can find it hard to find the time and worried parents can jump to the wrong conclusions.

"All this helps discourage kids making appointments to come to the surgery and this is where text messaging comes into its own.

"It is quick, confidential, can be done anywhere, any time, and almost all young people have a phone."

Primary care group chiefs plan to link the phone to a computer system to cope with demand if the scheme takes off. Schools and colleges around the region will also be asked to promote the project.

But Mr Haddow stressed that this scheme should not replace surgery visits for youngsters completely.

He said: "It is better to come to a doctor in person, but this is not always practicable. This service is about making sure teenagers get in touch. That is what is important."

He also moved to reassure parents that the project is not about providing secretive information about contraception. "Sex is a big issue for young people, but this service is about much more," Mr Haddow said.

"It provides an opportunity for a large group that, historically, doctors do not talk to. Through this we can find their fears and worries and, if necessary, refer them to consultants or hospitals."

The scheme is part of the Young People's Awareness Clinics which is trying to improve every aspect of teenage lifestyle with counselling across the borough. If it proves a success, Wirral's other primary care groups, Wallasey and Bebington, are expected to set up the same facility.

St George's Medical Centre in Wallasey set up a confidential adolescent clinic 12 months ago and has attracted more than 1,000 youngsters since it opened.

It has received international recognition with a similar clinic planned by health chiefs in Norway.

Practice manager Doreen Phoenix said: "One of our most successful aspects is that we work closely with schools and we ask young people what they want from the service. If text messaging is popular then we would certainly look at introducing it."

The number to text is 07866 699533.



David Holmes
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David Norbury
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