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Evaluations of two pathfinder projects in Sheffield and Islington have highlighted the benefits of providing support to patients to help them better manage conditions by using digital tools.
NHS Digital’s Widening Digital Participation (WDP) programme, which aims to help thousands of people across the UK to boost their digital health skills, has seen young people in Islington better manage mental health conditions by assisting them to access digital tools that can provide them with support when they most need it, whilst in Sheffield similar results have been found.
The three-year programme, run in partnership with Good Things Foundation, seeks to ensure people have the skills, motivation and means to access relevant health information and services online. Sheffield and Islington were the first two of 20 local pathfinder projects being rolled out over three years up to March 2020.
In Sheffield, the evaluation showed that 858 people engaged with the pathfinder and 108 received in-depth support. A total of 238 people engaged with the pathfinder in Islington, with 33 having received in-depth support and 65 digital champions recruited.
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.”
Helen Milner, chief executive Officer of Good Things Foundation, said: “Digital has a powerful potential to reduce inequalities, help people to better manage health conditions and prevent illness. For this to happen, it’s crucial we are tailoring our approaches to the most excluded - which means focusing on the people and how digital can meet their needs, rather than looking for high-tech solutions. The findings from these two pathfinders, and those to follow, will help us to work with the NHS to shape policy and practice in this area, and ensure digital health really reaches those who can most benefit.”