GP practices to host internet training sessions for patients in £750k scheme to reduce health inequalities
Exclusive NHS England is to spend thousands of pounds to create ‘digital flagships’ in GP practices, health centres and hospitals as part of a drive to train 100,000 people to use the internet this year.
The training centres are designed to reduce health inequalities - one of the specifications of the Government’s mandate to NHS England - and will be set up in areas of social deprivation, Pulse has learnt.
The major initiative to train 100,000 patients was first announced in NHS England’s business plan for 2013/14 to 2015/16, and the procurement document for the scheme reveals it may cost up to £750,000 in 2013/14, and that it could be extended for a further two years.
The training centres will work closely with CCGs, as well as local organisations and charities to share information and promote NHS digital services, NHS England said.
‘NHS Digital Flagships’ will be set up in GP practices, health centres and hospitals and ‘community hubs’ will be set up in public areas like libraries and community centres, in order to train patients how to access and use the internet.
The governing body for the NHS said that over seven million people in the UK have never used the internet, and although people over the age of 65 account for more than half of all NHS spending, 40% do not have access to the internet at home and five million of these have never been online.
It also said that other groups - such as those with disabilities, the homeless, offenders, the traveller community and people in some rural communities - are also at an additional disadvantage as they are not able to use the internet.
The document said: ‘NHS [England] anticipates that funding of up to £750,000 will be available for allocation to training centres up to 31 March 2014.This figure is dependent upon the total budget available for the delivery of this programme and may be reduced.
It added: ‘The contract will initially be for a period up to 31 March 2014, with the option of extending this annually up to a maximum of a further two years, solely at the discretion of NHS [England] and subject to availability of funding, future policy, operational requirements and satisfactory performance levels.’
NHS England will announce who has won the contract to carry out the work in September, it said.
But LMC leaders were critical of the proposal. Dr Russell Walshaw, chief executive of east Yorkshire and Lincolnshire LMC, called the policy a ‘gimmick’ and questioned whether there was any evidence installing the hubs would reduce health inequalities.
He said: ‘Have they produced any evidence that this will work? Is there any space in GP practices? I doubt it. I don’t think doctors would want this in their surgery.
He added: ‘To expect to do this with NHS money at a time when we’re in dire straits is a big minus. We should concentrate on things which are proven to reduce health inequalities. This is a gimmick, it won’t appeal to doctors and it won’t work.’