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NHS England to train people to use the internet

NHS England has announced it will train 100,000 citizens in basic online skills by 2014 in order to reduce health inequalities.

As part of its Putting Patients First business plan for 2013/14- 2015/16, NHS England said it will develop a programme to support people that currently do not, but could if they wished, use the internet. This will reduce inequalities in access to online health services, it added.

This is the latest in the Government’s attempts to steps up the move to online health services. Pulse reported this week that Choose and Book is being relaunched to increase its use while health secretary Jeremy Hunt has signalled his ambition for a ‘paperless NHS’ by 2018, which he has claimed will save £4.4bn.

The plan has been criticised by LMC leaders, who said that it detracts from effective methods for reducing inequalities.

NHS England’s business plan said: ‘The Health Online Programme will improve the way in which people interact with health services, including online access to key elements of the care process. 100,000 citizens will be trained in basic online skills to boost health literacy by April 2014.’

A statement from NHS England said they would target areas of social deprivation and would work with local initiatives who have experience in providing online skills to select eligible citizens.

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘The programme will cover all of England. We are particularly targeting areas of social deprivation and health inequalities. We are looking to work with a range of local agencies including community centres, libraries, voluntary organisations, GP practices, local health projects etc.

‘We will be selecting local initiatives with proven track records of helping people get online. We also want a good mix of geography (spread round country, urban & rural mix) and audience (eg older people, black & minority ethnic communities).’

When asked who would carry out the training, they said: ‘We are in the process of finalising commercial arrangements with training organisations.’

But Dr Robert Morley, executive secretary of Birmingham LMC, rubbished the plan. He said: ‘Instead of suggesting this rubbish the government should be investing in core general practices and premises to reduce health inequalities. That would be the best way to save money in secondary care. The government seems to be scrabbling round looking for new schemes. NHS 111 seemed like a good idea to address health inequalities, but look what happened to that.’

Dr Paul Roblin, chief executive of Berks, Bucks and Oxon LMC, said the scheme could be beneficial if it was targeted to the people who most need it, such as older people or poorer people. But he cautioned that teaching would only be valuable if users had a computer and online access afterwards. ‘Some people don’t have any internet skills whatsoever, including people in poverty. But online equipment isn’t cheap. It is a luxury for the people who can’t afford food and accommodation.’

Readers' comments (12)

  • If this is an example of forthcoming NHS strategy from NHS England (re-branded), God help us! Without financing the cost of a computer plus internet connections and necessary software etc, the poorer disadvantaged and elderly will not actually have a chance of any health benefit from this proposition - even if you consider that there is a health benefit, which I don't.
    Put the money into developing primary care and take notice of the professionals' (GPs) views in how best to do that without producing this kind of hair-brained scheme

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  • Vinci Ho

    You wonder what it was like every time NHS England board members were having their meeting?? Very interested to read the minutes which should be available for the public......

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  • Since virtually everything is being moved into primary care I suspect we'll see a Teaching The Internet domain in QOF within a few years:

    Int1: The practice maintains a register of all patients with internet connectivity

    Int2: The practice makes an offer of internet upgrades to all patients who have a bandwidth of 512k or less.

    Int3: The practice keeps a register of all patients who are able to email, shop, and most importantly vote online.

    Int4: All patients are to have their internet caches inspected by the Contractor and any patients who have accessed pornography or gambling sites are to be offered preventative advice


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  • interesting to note the negative reaction to this scheme even mmore depressing is the ignorance about ways in which poorer people can access the internet for through libraries and community centres, places the 'have alot' rarely visit and :including buying reconditioned computers for a few pounds and obtaining them for free if they qualify by having to prove their to the cost of accessing the net there are ways around that by eg using a pay as you go dongle or plug in.......the elderly by the way are high users of the ionternet and neither the majority of them or of disabled people are any less able to learn than the rest of society

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  • Why should the cost of training etc come out of NHS funds? My heart sinks.

    A few years ago the local dermatology department paid for the father of one of its patients to have driving lessons so that he could drive his son to appointments. He never did bring him.

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  • Anon 6:54

    I doubt you know what poverty in UK looks like. Patient can't afford to pay for scripts buy can buy cigarettes. They can't afford a taxi to to come to practice for apparently life threatening chest infection but can they can afford a bigger TV then you can. What makes you think they'll use the computer for useful things like Heath? And what about those who pays taxs and works hard who can afford an Internet and computer? Are they to be taxed even more so as to afford free Internet and computers for all?

    I also doubt you know what the health professionals call elderly now days. We mean 80+. I'm yet to see any of my elderly patients who can use computer to make appointments, order script, look on NHS choice, or even use an email. Yet, they are the ones that heavily requires health care.

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  • What a joke, is this the best the equality and health inequalities leaders come up with... They have had nearly three years in post and they one up with this. Health inequalities are linked to deprivation, unemployment, discrimination and other social conditions which disadvantaged groups face. Having access to Internet will cost and ver little if anything at to reduce health inequalities.

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  • Stop rubbishing this idea. Well done @NHSEngland for helping to empower those at most need of empowerment. I am sure they have thought about how to actually provide the internet connection. Maybe #NHSwifiNOW will be available in the near future.
    your GP practice could offer a secure wifi to patients and staff for relatively little cost overall. £300 for the router plus wiring . @stuartberry1

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  • well said stuart.,and three cheers to the dermatology dept. for recognising the need to think outside the box.....

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  • "Stop rubbishing this idea"

    No, let's keep on rubbishing this. And while we're at it, let's stop using General Practice for Social Engineering. Let's NOT have GP practices provide WiFi - let's have them provide more healthcare without interference from the Government.

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