A digital health hub piloted in Nailsea has proved to be such a success that the NHS is scaling it up across England, as demand increases from councils in North West London, the Wirral, Blackburn, Middlesbrough and Stafford.

65 High Street, known as ‘Nailsea Place’, is a digital health and wellbeing learning centre. The local venue, which was established in 2018, has become a trusted place on the high street where staff and volunteers can help people to improve their digital skills and confidence so they can engage with online services.

The initiative has so far engaged 1,340 people including those with dementia, diabetes, autism and those acting as young carers. Assistance offered ranges from contacting friends and family over Skype, to ordering a repeat prescription, to choosing a preferred hospital provider for a surgery or appointment.

The project is a partnership between local NHS services, Nailsea Town Council and Healthwatch and is supported by local volunteers, including local students, who provide one to one support. It has also seen support from local organisations to national charities, who have run group meetings or hosted private sessions for the people of Nailsea.

Organisations in five new areas will now use their own digital health hubs to learn what works in their area. Using the learnings from existing Pathfinders, including Nailsea, they will be making sure the most excluded in their boroughs have the chance to benefit from digital. This second wave of hubs will be in Blackburn with Darwen Library, Staffordshire Refugee Centre (ASHA), a community centre in Saltburn and the Grenfell victims support centre in NW London. Each will be designing a welcoming environment and giving people the opportunity to learn more about their health, and whatever else they need at that moment in time.

Community engagement improves health and wellbeing, helps to generate social connections, facilitates community life and provides support that helps people to be more active. Residents who gain digital skills and confidence are able to take more control over their own health and care online as well as having a say in the help commissioned locally.

Ian Morrell, Development Manager at Nailsea Town Council said, “The digital revolution has created disadvantages which did not previously exist, and many people feel excluded and left behind.  At No. 65, we have aimed to build trust with the local community and provide one-to-one support, introducing people to technology in an accessible way so they can see the benefits digital can provide.

“When people come to us for help with technology, the first thing we do is find out what they need – so we are providing a service that is led by users, and which ensures they get what they want from the support we can offer.”

This project is part of the NHS’s Widening Digital Participation Programme, which aims to make digital health services and information accessible to everyone – particularly the most excluded people in society.

Twenty digital inclusion pathfinders are being run across the country in partnership with the charity Good Things Foundation to test new ways to help people access digital tools to improve their health.

Source: NHS Digital