Madlen Davies reports in Pulse that NHS England is set to spend £750,000 creating ‘digital flagships’ in GP practices, health centres and hospitals as part of a drive to train 100,000 people to use the internet this year.
Here’s a few thoughts I had on the plans:
“The major initiative to train 100,000 patients was first announced in NHS England’s business plan for 2013/14 to 2015/16, and the procurement document for the scheme reveals it may cost up to £750,000 in 2013/14, and that it could be extended for a further two years… …funding of up to £750,000 will be available for allocation to training centres up to 31 March 2014. This figure is dependent upon the total budget available for the delivery of this programme and may be reduced”
Back of an envelope numbers on this are nonsensical. With about 8,000 GP Practices in England (who are all facing budget cuts in these times of austerity) this project even if it could draw down it’s full available budget could provide less than £100 for each practice… …enough for a washable keyboard perhaps?
“The training centres are designed to reduce health inequalities – one of the specifications of the Government’s mandate to NHS England – and will be set up in areas of social deprivation, Pulse has learnt… …The governing body for the NHS said that over seven million people in the UK have never used the internet, and although people over the age of 65 account for more than half of all NHS spending, 40% do not have access to the internet at home and five million of these have never been online… …It also said that other groups – such as those with disabilities, the homeless, offenders, the traveller community and people in some rural communities – are also at an additional disadvantage as they are not able to use the internet”
I think there’s this massive misunderstanding about the opportunity to connect people. The idea that rural populations, travellers and homeless people want internet skills really isn’t understanding the challenges that such Patients face (eg. access to fixed internet connectivity, literacy, access to power supply, crime and the ability to secure a PC/Laptop, etc, etc) and is very typical of people who aren’t aware of the opportunity mobile provides us to deliver healthcare services.
“The governing body for the NHS said that over seven million people in the UK have never used the internet, and although people over the age of 65 account for more than half of all NHS spending, 40% do not have access to the internet at home and five million of these have never been online”
I find it bizarre that someone thinks GP practices are suited to this type of initiative as the vast majority don’t even provide Patients with online access to their records or a means of online communication.
The situation is bad enough already but imagine how disappointed you’d be if you were a Patient who had bought into this new tech, learnt how to use it in your GPs clinic and then you come to realise that your GP’s aren’t actually prepared to let you use it to communicate with them?
What do we need first the Online Services or the IT Skills?
I think NHS England should focus on IT certification of Healthcare Professionals and the introduction of IT services before using it’s limited resources to train Patients on basic IT skills.
In my opinion a much more effective solution would be a secure GP website offering access to clinically validated interactive communication tools and featuring a link to an introductory online IT training course for those who would like some help.
What do you think?