Our thoughts

Practical ways we can make online GP access more inclusive

Dr Emma Stone reflects on our new top tips guide with NHS England’s Primary Care Transformation team - co-produced with the support of the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance.

By Good Things Foundation · 11/07/2023

In their recent, hard-hitting report on Digital Exclusion, the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee identified how important online access has become for health and wellbeing: 

“Internet users typically have easier access to support services, health awareness tools, and opportunities to avoid loneliness through online engagements for example. Conversely, as digitised healthcare becomes more common—for example through remote consultations, diagnostics and monitoring—there is a risk that health inequalities among digitally excluded groups will deepen.”

Digital risks amplifying health inequalities

The risk of deepening health inequalities is already a reality, as digital inclusion hubs in the National Digital Inclusion Network will tell you. Evidence is building on the links between digital exclusion, inclusion, and health inequalities.

We know that digital can be an amazing enabler: it has the power to reduce inequalities, improve accessibility, make life easier. However, if online services are designed poorly … and if people do not have the right kit, connectivity, confidence or support … and if those delivering healthcare and other services do not have the time and resources to help people to access online services … then digital becomes a barrier, deepening health inequalities, making life harder.

New guidance on making GP online access more inclusive

As part of our role on the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance, we’ve been working with NHS England’s Primary Care Transformation team to learn what helps. We put out a call for examples, and heard back from over 30 organisations and partnerships. With the support of Dr Sarah Alden, we’ve co-produced new guidance, published today on NHS England’s website.

‘Top tips: Supporting digital inclusion in general practice’ shares practical actions which primary care organisations, GPs, community groups and others can take – with the right relationships, reach, and resources in place. The guidance features top tips for healthcare staff; top tips for VCSE organisations; and 11 case studies.

Free support for organisations to tap into

Some resources which can help are already freely available through the National Digital Inclusion Network – including 7 health topics on Learn My Way (Good Things Foundation’s free learning tool to help people build digital confidence), and free mobile data through the National Databank and devices through the National Device Bank

If you are a General Practice, Primary Care Network, Integrated Care Board or Integrated Care Partnership, NHS Foundation Trust … if you are a voluntary, community sector or social enterprise organisation … if you are supporting people who use your services to become digitally included – then you can apply to join our network to access support. And everything – membership and resources – is free. Find out more: hello@goodthingsfoundation.org 

Final words

As Samuel – supported by Skills Enterprise – a digital inclusion hub in our network, puts it: 

“In this world, everything is online. You want to go shopping? Shop online. Hospital? Even that’s sometimes online. Basically everything is online. Therefore, it’s very important to have digital skills and a connection. Like with people who are helping those of us who otherwise don’t have much in our pockets.”

Read the full report and view case studies from primary care and VCSE organisations who share examples of good practice and promising approaches to digital inclusion in general practice.