NHS Digital has claimed a couple of early successes for its Widening Digital Participation (WDP) pilots, with the first two projects having reached substantial numbers of people in their areas.
The national ICT partner of the health and care system has launched the three-year WDP programme to help people develop the skills to self-care using digital devices and services.
It has worked with the Good Things Foundation – a charity focused on digital and social inclusion – to encourage the use of specific technologies in Sheffield and Islington. The two projects got underway in March.
The Sheffield project has been focused on people with long term conditions such as diabetes and asthma, and an evaluation showed that 858 people have engaged with it so far, with 108 receiving in-depth support in using the digital tools.
The Islington initiative has introduced young people to mental health apps, supported by digital champions in local organisations. A total of 238 people engaged with the project, 33 received in-depth support and 65 digital champions have been recruited.
Findings from the project will feed into NHS policy and practice on the relevant issues.
Nicola Gill, WDP programme director at NHS Digital, said: “We are very pleased with the outcomes of the first two pathfinders, which have been successful in helping excluded and vulnerable people to take control of their healthcare by providing them with the skills to access digital health information and services.
“We’ve learned a lot from these first pathfinders and we are going to look in-depth at the evaluation to see how the lessons learned can be used to support even more people and ensure digital inclusion is embedded across the NHS.”
These are the first of 20 local pathfinder projects set to run up to March 2020 and involving organisations including clinical commissioning groups, local authorities and community groups in areas of high social deprivation and digital exclusion.
Six projects have been identified for the next round of the programme, including tests of technology for people with hearing and visual impairments in West Yorkshire, and work on wearable healthcare devices in Wakefield.