A text message service giving sexual health advice to young people is to launch nationwide after a successful pilot in Lambeth, south London.

The Text Sam service, run by charity Safe Haven and Think Big, aims to get young people who are embarrassed about sex to anonymously access information they want via the free text service.

More than 42,000 young people sent requests to the service during its two-month pilot in Lambeth and Southwark earlier this year.

According to current figures, the boroughs have some the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the country.

"We wanted to reduce these rates, which are now getting out of hand. It's an issue that needs attention," said Paul Johnson, director of Think Big.

"We also wanted to initially make a difference to the hardest-hit areas in the country."

He said the pilot was so successful due to word of mouth between young people, as only about 100 teenagers were originally told about the service.

He said: "Young people are often embarrassed and frightened to ask adults about sex.

"But teenagers feel comfortable using Text Sam because they can remain anonymous. We have an obligation to tell them what they want to know about contraception, STIs, pregnancy and sexuality."

He said the most common requests the service received asked where to access free condoms and for details about STIs.

The scheme's representatives are currently seeking funding from local authorities around the UK to launch in all parts of the country.

Nick Fairclough, from Lambeth Primary Care Trust, said the significant sexual health issues in Lambeth needed to be addressed.

"If kids are comfortable with using text messaging and are being signposted to the right information in the right way, then that's brilliant," he said.

  • To obtain free sexual health information text Sam to 60030.