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Tackling digital exclusion: reducing loneliness; improving access to primary care

Aim: Work with local organisations supporting residents to get online. Produce toolkit for accessing healthcare. Impact: Patients will get the most out of primary care consultations and combat social isolation.

Read comments 4
  • Proposal
  • 2020

Meet the team


  • Ruta Habtom, Project Manager, Islington GP Federation
  • Emma Whitby, Healthwatch Islington
  • Lucy Bingham, Holloway Neighbourhood Group

What is the positive change that has emerged through new collaborations or partnerships during Covid-19 that your project is going to embed?

Our use of digital tools, such as AccuRx, in primary care has increased due to covid-19. Primary care have expanded the offer of remote consultations, which include video calls. This has helped safeguard patients and staff in the context of the pandemic and this has been positive. It has also allowed contact with some of our most vulnerable patients for whom social interaction is otherwise limited.

We are now aiming to capture the positives of use of digital tools and enable access via this route for patients that may need additional support to kick start use. There has been much debate about widening inequalities as a result of digital exclusion and this project aims to reduce this by working to enable better use of digital in groups with added risk factors for exclusion eg. over 65s and non-English speaking groups.

What does your project aim to achieve?

Aim: To improve the confidence in use of digital tools in at risk groups for digital exclusion and to improve access to primary care.


1. Produce a toolkit to enable residents to access digital primary care.

2. Train 30 voluntary sector staff working with clients where digital exclusion is a problem. Training will include a) how to have video consultations with your doctor  (enables safer and fuller assessment remotely where required & enables a patient advocate to aid translation) b) use of NHS app to request repeat medications for your condition (improve safety with medication requests) c) booking GP appointments online

2. The staff and volunteers will be digital champions for primary care – they will hold workshops and face to face drop-ins with clients to improve confidence

By supporting vulnerable clients, including those with long-term conditions who cannot speak English and over 65s, we hope to tackle inequalities.

Recruiting champions from communities supports sustainability.

How will the project be delivered?

The Team:

The Quality Improvement Support Team, Islington GP Federation (IGPF) will work with partners including Healthwatch Islington (HI) and Holloway Neighbourhood Group (HNG) to produce a toolkit to support residents to access primary care using digital means.

IGPF has a primary care team which can provide the clinical oversight and technical information for the toolkit. IGPF hosts the training hub and has infrastructure for virtual workshops and space for in-person training.

HI will connect with existing staff and volunteers who will use our toolkit. HNG runs out of a multipurpose community centre and is connected to those at risk of digital exclusion which will allow rapid deployment of training. All organisations are motivated to support clients with digital exclusion.

Measurement of impact:

– Feedback from staff, volunteers and residents trained (questionnaire measuring change in confidence)

– Number of staff/volunteers and residents trained (sustainability – count digital champions)

– Number of organisations using toolkit

How is your project going to share learning?

The increased use of digital and its implication for patient access and possible widening of inequalities is of immediate concern for patients, providers and policy makers. We will share learning both locally and nationally:

– We will write about our QI journey as this collaboration develops and share with Q members. We aim to share resources with other areas interested in a similar approach.

– Our celebration event will share learning with all organisations involved in the project.

– We are active on social media and would tweet our learning for further reach. Our team members contribute to academic discussion, including via the BMJ.

– Islington GP Federation works closely with Public health and CCG teams and will share findings in our locality, using this platform to disseminate impact in London as well as with Primary Care Network development teams nationally.

– Conference presentations and publications.

How you can contribute

  • Support connecting with Q members who are working in this area - this is an issue that many organisations are grappling with at present and by sharing learning I hope we use the funding most efficiently.
  • If you have experience of supporting a resident or patient with digital technology we would really like to hear your experience and will use this to shape the toolkit.

Plan timeline

2 Dec 2020 Refine the intervention pathway and memorandum between collaborating organisations
31 Mar 2021 Recruitment of volunteers and community engagement
11 May 2021 Training of digital champions across local voluntary sector organisations
18 May 2021 Volunteers and staff commence supporting residents
27 Jul 2021 Digital Champion - shared learning workshop
22 Feb 2022 Celebration event to share successes


  1. Guest

    sharon wiener-ogilvie 1 year, 8 months ago

    A really important improvement initiative! I think with a small pilot it will be good to narrow down your target group. Also perhaps consider some process measures that relate  to the recruitment and training of volunteers.

  2. Guest

    Paula Phillips 1 year, 8 months ago


    I am currently doing work with people with learning disabilities and am very interested in the 'how to have video consultations'. if you could share information that would be helpful.

    1. Thank you - the aim would be to produce the how to guides through this project and then share here and with VCS organisations locally.

  3. Hi, this seems a really important project which can help our communities and accelerate learning for others.

    From a QI perspective I am happy to help with your queries above if you still need it.



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