The Long Term Plan highlights the importance of innovation and development to improve efficiency in the NHS.


NHS Long term plan- What’s the future for Children’s digital health?

Lisa Simmons

Clinical Implementations Manger

What does a service look like for those who know more about tech than ‘we’ do?

The Long Term Plan highlights the importance of innovation and development to improve efficiency in the NHS. If we’re trying to increase the uptake of digital health across our population for future benefit, then it seems obvious that we need to engage our children and young people.

Since I have been working at ORCHA Digital Healthy Schools has been my main focus. I’m now leading this programme and I absolutely love it. I have to admit, coming from a clinical patient facing background, I initially found it difficult to understand the digital aspects of the programme. But, the more I work with it and the more it evolves; the more invested I become and the more excited I am about its importance and innovativeness. Now the programme is being rolled out by North West London Collaboration of Clinical Commissioning Groups, Lancashire County Council, and Blackburn and Darwen Council, I can see how necessary this package is and we are all excited to see the positive impact it has on thousands of students.

This programme really links priorities cited by education and health e.g. the national ‘healthy schools’ programmes, the DfE strategy 2015-2020, Public Health England’s Strategic Plan, NHS England’s ‘Healthy Children’ report 2016. But it also clearly meets the priorities and agendas set out in the NHS Long Term Plan. The report states that ‘mental health support for children and young people will be embedded in schools and colleges’ and goes on to suggest that ‘the NHS work with schools, parents and local councils [to] reveal whether more upstream preventative support, including better information sharing and the use of digital interventions, helps moderate the need for specialist child and adolescent mental health services’.

In other words, let’s get young people educated in digital health and empower them to support their own health and well-being; to prevent escalation of health and well-being difficulties and reduce the need for onward referrals. This is not to instead of referring to services such as CAMHS, or to stop children accessing face-to-face support when they need it. This is an extra layer of support that is in the palm of most young people’s hands already. Instead of complaining about young people being on their phones too much, let’s harness this and show them how to responsibly use digital health. If we can help a young person to stay well physically and mentally without escalating to the point of needing an onward referral, then that is a positive outcome for everyone.

The Digital Healthy Schools programme does all of this. It helps educate the next generation about taking responsibility for their own health and well-being. It provides busy teachers with an accessible and easy-to-use PSHE package to teach children and young people about responsible use of apps. It also provides teaching staff with the ability to recommend apps directly and discreetly to their students, supporting pastoral care. The package provides education organisations with a digital hub which includes a customisable app finder in which the apps are reviewed and age appropriate. The hub also includes promotional resources such as social media posts, banners, and email content to enable the organisation to promote their hub.

The programme meets the needs of children and young people with regards to the NHS Long Term Plan as well as the needs of the education system to provide quality PSHE and pastoral care. It also supports the STEM agenda and other national initiatives such as ‘active living’. It really does tick quite a few boxes. I could continue to sing the praises of the programme and how I really believe it is delivering support to children and young people in the way they want to access it, but this post would end up far too long. For more information contact us at