News, Primary Care News

Identifying, signposting and co-designing: NHS England on digital inclusion in general practice

NHS England has published guidance on supporting digital inclusion in general practice, designed for healthcare staff and “anyone else who is seeking to reduce digital exclusion in general practice”. The guidance is based on examples of good practice shared from primary care organisations and VCSEs across the country.

The NHS guidance presents ten tips to support digital inclusion in general practice, focusing particularly on under-served and vulnerable groups.

The guidance notes the need for GP websites and digital tools to be usable and accessible for patients. In our deep dive into digital primary care, HTN chatted to Thomas Porteus, founder and CEO at digital primary care specialist iatro; Thomas reiterated this point, highlighting the importance of treating websites like a “digital front door” to ensure that it is easy for patients to find and use available digital services. The guidance also signposts those in primary care to an auditing tool designed to help practices review their websites in line with patient journeys, the release of which we covered back in June.

Another of the key tips provided within the guidance refers to the use of different channels and languages to support communication with patients, ensuring that they are aware of available digital tools and their benefits, as well as signposting them to support if required. Those working within primary care are directed to DHSC advice on the usage of different mediums for patient communication, which they can access for free.

In the way of promoting leadership and ownership of digital inclusion, the guidance suggests appointing and training “digital inclusion champions”, who can take the lead and guide their colleagues in supporting patients to use digital tools safely and effectively. In April’s edition of our podcast, Pritesh Mistry from The King’s Fund commented on how useful champions can be: “It’s rare that you can either drop a technology in place and just leave it. Often you need to support staff to understand how technology can be used, how the workflows need to be changed; you need to upskill staff to be able to use and optimise the technology as well. Then it’s about cultivating some of those staff members you are working with to become champions, to change ways of working and about pivoting solutions to fit the problem as well.”

Some of the other tips provided by NHS England to support digital inclusion in general practice include identifying those at higher risk of digital exclusion in liaison with local authorities and VCSE organisations; drawing on focus groups and patient feedback to promote co-design in patient digital support; and ensuring that traditional routes to access care are maintained for those patients who do not wish to engage with digital tools or services.

The guidance finishes with a list of available information and resources, including further NHS England guidance on accessibility and the use of digital tools in general practice. To read the guidance in full, please click here.