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NHS hopes to narrow the digital divide in health

Will provide funding for new 'digital health hubs'

The NHS Commissioning Board is to offer training and support to help more people in the UK get online to improve their health.

The Board has partnered with the Online Centres Foundation to develop at least 50 of their existing centres in public places, such as libraries, community centres cafes and pubs, into digital health hubs.

Professor Steve Field, deputy national medical director at the NHS Commissioning Board, said: “People who do not have access to the online world are often the invisible ones. It is up to us to make sure they are seen, heard and have access to quality care, regardless of circumstance or need.

"Modern day healthcare is far less about the doctor knowing best. It's more about the individual taking informed decisions and the doctor helping them get the care they need."

The NHS Commissioning Board, which said the move could help up to 100,000 people get online, is concerned that those with the greatest need of NHS services are least likely to be online.

This includes those over the age of 65 - who account for more than half of NHS spending but 36 per cent of whom have never been online before. Health inequalities, along with a lack of access to online services, are also often seen among the homeless, travellers and some rural communities.

Helen Milner, chief executive of the Online Centres Foundation, said: “Digital inclusion will have a direct impact on the health of the nation, helping people take control of their own health and make choices that are right for them, and our network are perfectly placed to support people in their communities to improve not only their skills but their health as well.”

UK Online Centres offer free access to the internet and the new hubs will provide training and support to help people go online for the first time so they can start using websites such as NHS Choices.

Further health information training will be provided on the Centres' www.learnmyway.com website, in the form of a “digital health information learning package”.

The hope is that as people become more confident they will also be encouraged to do more online, such as order repeat prescriptions online, something the government wants all GP practices in England to offer from 2015.

The new programme will also see a new network of larger NHS digital projects working in health locations (including hospitals and GP surgeries) set up to pilot innovative approaches to getting involved in online healthcare.

The project will initially run for a year, after which point it will be evaluated before a decision is taken on how it should continue.

18th March 2013

From: Healthcare

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