Six new pathfinders for NHS digital participation

Programme manager outlines plans for best practice guide and research on the most excluded from digital healthcare

Six pathfinder projects have been added to the initial two in the NHS Widening Digital Participation (WDP) Programme.

Stephoscope on keyboard with data on screenThe team has also set out to develop a best practice guide in digital inclusion for NHS commissioners, and commission research on what the most excluded people need in using technology for their healthcare.

Programme manager Nicola Gill has outlined the progress in a blogpost on the programme, led by NHS Digital, to get more people using digital healthcare tools.

When it was launched in March two pilots were already underway: a project in Islington involves developing ways to support young people with mental health problems, while one in Sheffield covers social prescribing, supporting older people with one or more long term conditions.

These have now been joined by six more around England, identified on a digital map:

  • Nailsea (near Bristol) – The development of a digital health hub on the high street.
  • Stoke-on-Trent – A programme to build digital skills for people with long term conditions.
  • West Yorkshire – Testing health technology for people with hearing and visual impairments.
  • Seaview (East Sussex) – Digital health interventions for homeless people.
  • Bradford – Development of a digital platform health improvements, initially focused on patients with dementia and diabetes and young people.
  • Wakefield – Work on wearable healthcare technology.

Another 12 pathfinder projects are expected to be developed along with programme partner, the Good Things Foundation, and local organisations.

Blockers change

Gill said that an evaluation of the first three years of the WDP programme showed that skills, access and cost are no longer barriers, with most people being better able to use the technology. But it is not widely taken up as lack of awareness, motivation and low health literacy have emerged as the leading blockers.

This has prompted a change in focus to concentrate on understanding the barriers to take-up, providing a range of targeted interventions, and ensuring that digital inclusion is a key element when NHS bodies are commissioning.

As part of the latter point, NHS Digital is planning to develop a digital inclusion best practice guide for commissioners, service designers and delivery teams – along with a set of design principles specifically for digital health products.

It is also planning to commission research on the needs of the most excluded, having already worked with two charities for homeless people.

Image by Kaggle, www.kaggle.com