The Department of Health and Social Care has released a new plan for transforming services. Here we highlight where the report references digital inclusion in health and social care.
In late June 2022, the Department of Health and Social Care released a new plan for the digital transformation of services on GOV.UK.
The document states that this transformation is a top priority for the department and that, “the system’s long-term sustainability depends on it.”
In his forward, the now former, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, explains that the government is, “embarking on a transformative programme of reforms that will make sure the NHS is set up to meet the challenges of 2048.”
His vision is to put the the NHS App “at the heart of these plans”. He vows to “add an array of new features over the coming years, with new functionality and more value for patients every single month.”
He states that the plan earmarks, “£2 billion of funding to support electronic patient records to be in all NHS trusts, and help over 500,000 people to use digital tools to manage their long-term health conditions in their own homes.”
Encouragingly Javid’s forward also mentions the need to address digital inclusion.
He concludes that, “Just as we are putting the right technology in place, we also need to make sure that people are confident and supported in using it.”
Digital inclusion in health and social care
The report also includes a short dedicated section on digital inclusion.
Our actions here aim to mitigate the risk of excluding people unable or unwilling to access digital offers, and to design pathways to include all target users – digital and non-digital.
Access to digital solutions can be more challenging for some groups – for example, people on lower incomes who may not have a suitable device or who cannot afford the costs of data or connectivity. Some people may lack the confidence or skills to use digital channels. Others may always prefer face-to-face services.
Lack of trust in the security or reliability of digital technologies can also be a barrier to their uptake.
Mitigating the risk of digital exclusion is one of 5 key priorities that NHSE has asked ICSs to address in its drive to reduce health inequalities.
- build on the expertise of local authority services to extend access through working with systems to increase the availability of private, accessible community spaces for digital interactions, such as digital kiosks. We will also support local partnerships working to expand affordable connectivity (2025)
- empower individuals through their communities, by encouraging hyperlocal connections and approaches that use community assets to engage and empower people to use digital technology for health. We will work through existing programmes like the Core20PLUS Connectors programme to uncover and address fears about using digital health services (2025)
- target and tailor offers, identifying and targeting groups that face barriers to accessing services and using digital approaches to bring the benefits of the digital transformation to everyone. Population health analysis will inform an inclusive offer that incorporates non-digital options where they are needed to ensure equitable access (2025)
- by May 2023, NHSE will produce a framework for NHS action on digital inclusion with our future plans, and will develop further resources to support systems in practical action.
We think that this white paper presents an opportunity for councils to work more closely with NHS colleagues on digital inclusion (if they’re not already). In some cases the NHS might be getting funding to tackle the issue but the council might be better placed to deliver the solutions.
A discussion about how and where any funding could be spent to achieve shared outcomes will be a priority. For example in Leeds, that would be via the Digital Health Hub model.
Here are two case studies showcasing the work Leeds has already done in this area: