Happy birthday NHS and here's to good health for us all

01 Jul 2018 |Written by Roz Davies

I am delighted to introduce the Good Things Foundation #NHS70 series of blogs. Written by our staff and some of our friends and partners, we will highlight our NHS journey to date, showcase some examples of the value of digital health to patients and the NHS, and outline our future plans.

Good Things Foundation believes that everyone should benefit from digital and our goal is to reach 3 million people by 2020. However, in the UK alone, there are 11.3 million people who do not have basic online skills. These people are often the same people who are most at risk of ill health and therefore most in need of the NHS. As the NHS goes digital, it is vital that we place an emphasis on supporting this group of people or we will compound existing health inequalities.

Our NHS Journey

Good Things Foundation has been working in partnership with the NHS for the past five years to ensure that everyone benefits from digital. It has been quite a journey of discovery. Along the way we have met some amazing patients, staff and partners of the NHS.

Meet Paul Lavin from Liverpool who was supported by an Online Centre to use our digital 'Learn My Way' health resources, helping him to manage his anxiety and stress, access GP services and gain new skills and confidence.

Meet Dr Ollie Hart, a Sheffield-based GP who has been exploring using social prescribing to support people to use digital health resources as part of their self-management

Meet Ian Morrell, who has set up an Online Centre on the High Street of Nailsea to help residents engage with digital technology and their health.

Widening Digital Participation Phase 1

In July 2013, Good Things Foundation and NHS England began a three-year Widening Digital Participation programme, aiming to help more than 220,000 people improve their digital health skills. Working with our Online Centres Network, in three years we helped 221,941 people to use digital health resources. Based on a modelling of the Year 3 activities we worked out we saved the NHS over £6 million in reduced numbers of GP appointments and hospital admissions.

Research on Dementia and Digital

During this time, we also carried out some deep dive research on people living with dementia and carers. We found that gaining digital skills had a profound impact on both individuals with dementia and their families, e.g. using digital reminiscence tools and technology to trigger memories and even record the results allowed them to capture moments of lucidity from the person with dementia.

Research on Unpaid Carers and Digital

We have also carried out research in partnership with Carers Trust, Carers UK and Family Fund to explore the role digital can play in helping unpaid carers. Amongst other findings, we discovered that Carers do use the internet for peer support and searching for information related to their caring responsibilities but often not for their own health and wellbeing.

NHS Testbeds

We have also undertaken two area-based partnerships through the NHS Testbed Wave 1 programmes in Cumbria and Lancashire and Sheffield. In the Sheffield Testbed, we explored how to develop confidence and skills of staff in the NHS to support patients to use digital health. Data Design Manager Tom French will be launching the final evaluation and a 'How To' with a great set of resources on day 2 of our #NHS70 series.

Peer Support

Through our Online Centres, our digital platforms and our research, we have learnt about the power of peer support, both face to face and online. As someone living with type 1 diabetes, I have found online peer support an invaluable part of my self-management toolkit! Without it I would never have met the inspirational Anne Cooper. Anne has a clinical background, has worked at a senior level in NHS Digital and herself lives with Type 1 Diabetes. I am very much looking forward to the blog post she has agreed to write for us on the subject of online peer support on day 3 of our #NHS70 series.

NHS Widening Digital Participation Phase 2

In 2017 we began an exciting new phase of NHS Widening Digital Participation using a co-design approach to work in partnership with people who are more socially and digitally excluded and with local NHS organisations and other stakeholders. Nicola Gill, the NHS Digital Programme Lead, and Pete Nuckley, our Programme Manager, will share more about what we have learnt to date and what our plans are for the rest of the programme on day 4 of our #NHS70 Series.

The Bigger Picture

The last in our #NHS70 blog series on day 5 will be written by our Group CEO Helen Milner OBE set in the context of our wider and international developments.

Our Future NHS Partnership Plans

Through all our NHS partnership work to date we have identified four key barriers to using digital as an enabler in health:

  • Products and services are often not accessible or matched to the needs of patients.
  • People with long-term conditions and who most need health services provided by the NHS are also more likely not to have basic digital skills.
  • The ability of people to make effective use of digital to manage their health is affected by their individual circumstances, e.g. housing, poverty and loneliness.
  • Healthcare professionals are not always confident and competent in the use of digital technology to support patients to manage their health.

Our future offer for the NHS is multi-faceted. We are interested in activities where we can add value and which our Online Centres tell us are important and meaningful to people who are the most digitally and socially excluded in our society.

We will continue to work with national and local NHS partners to scale up our activities including building the relationship between Online Centres and General Practice to support patients.

We will also continue to work in partnership with people living with long-term conditions and who are more socially and digitally excluded to support them to use digital as an enabler to access services and improve. Building on our Reboot Programme, we will work with people living with mental health conditions and people who are homeless.

In pursuit of these objectives, we will also support the NHS to use co-design approaches and build the capacity and skills of staff to support patients to use digital health resources.

As the NHS responds to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century I am really excited about the future possibilities of our partnership with the NHS. We have an incredible array of talents and resources to unleash in our team, our digital resources and especially in our Online Centres.

Whilst we embrace the innovation and technological changes for the NHS we are also looking forward to working in partnership to ensure that the NHS continues to uphold the original principles set out by Bevan in 1948 of meeting the needs of everyone, free at the point of delivery and based on clinical needs not ability to pay.

Happy 70th Birthday to the NHS from Good Things Foundation!

For further information on our Health and Wellbeing work please get in touch with me on Roz.Davies@goodthingsfoundation.org.

Twitter @roz_davies