NHS Digital is to run 20 local projects funding to help people improve their digital health skills as part of its widening digital participation scheme.
The scheme, which is being run in collaboration with the Good Things Foundation, is the second such programme the pair have worked on – the first running from 2013 to 2016.
Helen Milner, chief executive of the Good Things Foundation, which also worked on the first phase of the programme, said that the group had been “itching to do more” in the field.
The first phase had exceeded its targets, she said, training nearly 220,000 people to improve their digital health skills and reaching almost 390,000 with messages about digital health literacy.
However, Milner said that the second phase would not be “more of the same” and that the team was now taking a different approach.
“We’re still looking to help socially disadvantaged people to improve their digital health skills, but this time it will be more focussed – we’ll be recruiting 20 ‘pathfinder’ centres over three years,” she said.
These pathfinder projects will involve Clinical Commissioning Groups, local authorities and local community groups and aim to tailor approaches to digital inclusion for different groups.
These groups will be people who fall into one of the six clinical priority areas that are set out in the NHS’s Five Year Forward View and are also in the most excluded groups, according to the foundation’s research.
“I see it as embedding digital health literacy in the health sector, rather than embedding health into the digital inclusion sector,” said Milner.
The pathfinder projects will design services, resources and communications that can be used more widely across England, and focus on developing models for effective partnerships to improve digital health skills and boost access to digital services and information.
Milner said they would work with a small group of 50 to carry out in-depth user-research, user-testing and co-design to make sure the activities they are piloting meet the specified outcomes.
NHS Digital said that the work was crucial as the health service moves towards becoming fully digital.
“We know that there is a strong correlation between digital exclusion and health inequalities,” said Amanda Neylon, programme director at NHS Digital.
“Through this project we hope to enable and support vulnerable people to take control of their own health care by providing them with the skills and confidence to go online and access digital health information and services.”
The first two projects in the next phase were announced yesterday (20 March). Islington CCG will work with young people with mental health problems and learning disabilities, while Sheffield CCG is running a social prescribing project to support older people with one or more long-term conditions.