NHS England is launching a £1 million scheme to teach thousands of deprived citizens basic online skills so that they can learn how to access health information online.
Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s national director for patients and information, wrote in a blog that the organisation would be working in partnership with the Tinder Foundation, which operates 5,000 training centres around the UK, to deliver the initiative until March 2014.
“Not everybody has easy access to the internet so we are launching a programme that will support 100,000 of the most disadvantaged in our society to learn how to access health information online. This is one of the most significant initiatives to target inequality ever launched in the NHS,” he wrote.
The initiative is part of NHS England’s Participation Guidance: ‘Transforming Participation in Health and Care’, which also requires commissioners to ensure that every person with a long-term illness or disability has a personalised care plan, so that they can control their own care.
“Patients will be able to access these online or on their mobile phone, if they want to, and feedback direct to their clinician,” Kelsey wrote.
According to the Tinder Foundation, half of all people who are offline have a disability, and 36 percent of the over-65s - who account for half of all NHS spending - have never been online before.
Under the £1 million project, 50,000 of the people to be trained will be taught directly how to use health information online. As well as training disabled and older people, groups who are most likely to experience health digital inequalities, including gypsy and traveller communities, homeless people and sex workers, will also be targeted.
Tinder Foundation CEO Helen Milner said: “Our network of UK online centres and our online courses reach thousands of people every day and this project will help many more to develop digital skills and understand how to access health services online.
“Through a series of flagship projects and partnerships we will also be looking at ways of enabling citizen access to health information in more innovative ways."
Examples of innovation include the NHS embedding APIs within technology, such as tablets, or the creation of online portals where patients and healthcare professionals can communicate with each other.
Meanwhile, confirmed flagship partnerships include Bromley-by-Bow Living Health Centre and UK online centre, the Mayfair Community Centre in Shropshire, the Cooke e-Learning Foundation in Leicester, Southampton Libraries working with Macmillan Cancer Support and St Mungo's Wellbeing Centres working with homeless people in Lambeth, Kensington and Chelsea, Hackney and Camden in London.
The Tinder Foundation aims to create new learning content, grow the learning portal at learnmyway.com/health, and will work with organisations like the Society for Chief Libraries to develop bespoke learning content. If completed in a single sitting, courses would take 30 to 60 minutes to complete.
NHS England has previously released a report that said that IT has a role to play in reshaping the health service for the better.