ChatHealth is a secure messaging service to help people access quick confidential advice on mental health, sexual health and general health concerns.

Its flexible, digital approach provides an alternative to face-to-face appointments and helps reach under-served groups who may find traditional ways to access services are often stigmatised and difficult.


I love this service. It’s great to be able to text as I can ask questions I’m not comfortable raising on the phone or in person. Especially little problems that I wouldn’t normally ask. It just gives me peace of mind.


Service user

What the project involved

Developed by Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, ChatHealth came to EMAHSN’s attention via their 2014 Innovation Awards.

The ChatHealth platform provides NHS-compliant security and governance for secure clinical interactions over mobile devices. It ensures all messaging conversations can be managed centrally making it responsive, clinically governable and safe.

Key learning for those implementing ChatHealth:

  • Service user engagement is essential in planning the delivery model
  • Ensure sufficient time for planning and training
  • Utilisation will be dependent on the organisation
  • Ongoing clinical service evaluation is essential.

Through EMAHSN’s tailored package of support (including advice on protecting intellectual property, marketing, communications, evaluation and commercialisation) the initiative rapidly spread and is available to almost three million young people nationwide (more than six million people in total, including parents and carers of babies, children and young people as well as adults).

The programme has been shared across AHSN areas and 2021-2022 saw uptake accelerate nationally by 15% compared to the previous year, including to Wales and Northern Ireland.

The combined cost of ChatHealth messaging service staffed with 0.5 whole time equivalent (WTE) from within existing capacity of service (salary and product licencing) is approximately £10,000 less than 1 WTE post. Based on a population of 85,000 people, around 600 (or more) contacts could be delivered in one year.

It would require four more additional members of staff using traditional methods, at a cost of approx. £150,000 per annum, to deliver the same number of contacts. Any additional staff capacity can deliver face-to-face or telephone contacts to those most in need.


As of October 2022, ChatHealth has been adopted by 70 NHS partners and is used in 60% of school nursing services. It is also used in health visiting, mental health, sexual health and specialist services to improve access to health advice. It has been especially well received during the Covid pandemic when physical access to services was more limited.

A total of 87,132 messaging conversations were opened up in 2021-22 and almost 400,000 messages were sent to health professionals and responded to.

Diagram showing national adoption and spread

ChatHealth has had a positive impact on staff and users.

In the latest annual survey, 279 staff from NHS organisations that use ChatHealth responded:

  • 90% say they often or always promote ChatHealth
  • More than half (63%) feel that their ChatHealth service has increased the reach of their service locally
  • 87% said they would recommend ChatHealth to other healthcare professionals.

Infographic showing spread of ChatHealth

Visit the EMAHSN ChatHealth project page

Next steps

EMAHSN is continuing to work with ChatHealth providing expertise to support further national spread and adoption across a wide spectrum of services.

A ChatAutism and ChatMentalHealth service has recently also been launched and more will follow.

ChatHealth is part of the NHS Innovation Accelerator and Clinical Entrepreneur programmes.

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