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Addressing digital exclusion in mental health services

To work with partners across the Isle of Wight to ensure there is a clear pathway that addresses inequalities through digital exclusion in people living with severe mental illness (SMI)

Read comments 10
  • Winning idea
  • 2022

Meet the team


  • Bev Fryer-Head of Nursing and Quality- Mental Health
  • Christa Dilleyston-lived experience lead
  • Tia Jackson-peer support worker
  • Lived experience representatives- to be confirmed

What is the challenge your project is going to address and how does it connect to the theme?

Since the covid-19 pandemic there has been an acceleration in the use of digital tools in all services across the country. There are benefits to digital tools and services, for example they can be useful in supporting self management of health conditions, keeping connected and accessing health information and services quickly.

However, there continue to be people across the UK who are digitally excluded, in particular people living with long term conditions, including SMI. In addition, people with SMI have been highlighted through the Core20PLUS5 work as experiencing increased health inequalities.

We have recently undertaken research on the Isle of Wight with people with SMI. This highlighted the  impact of digital exclusion on health  as well as the factors,  arguably specific to people experiencing SMI, that can lead to/exacerbate digital exclusion.  We want to bring research and QI together and test and evaluate the suggested potential solutions to promote inclusion.

What does your project aim to achieve?

The project aims to build on the findings from the research, working with people with lived experience of severe mental illness and third sector partners across the Island. The project aims to ensure people with SMI  are not experiencing health inequalities due to digital exclusion and are able to make an informed choice about whether and how they use digital/face to face services. We will promote digital inclusion through addressing some of the issues raised by research participants:

-Heath staff making assumptions about a persons level of digital inclusion- trialling development of digital champions in mental health teams.

-Lack of digital skills/current digital support not having mental health focus/reasonable adjustments- trial development of mental health peer support worker digital coach in reaching into existing digital support and offering 1:1 input.

-Lack of access to digital tools/data- scope available support and produce and promote a pathway re: access to tools and data.

How will the project be delivered?

The project will be delivered by working with partners across the Isle of Wight to build on what is already in place alongside people with lived experience of SMI. There is a group on the Island which we are linked in to looking at digital access and skills across the Island, including organisations such as ‘Age UK’ and ‘Wightfibre’. They are supportive of the need to ensure people with SMI are also able to access schemes to promote digital inclusion, we would work with this group to make sure this project had as much impact as possible and share skills across the group.

We would measure the impact of each stream of work through looking at outcomes such as:

– Impact of 1:1 support on goals and perceived quality of life

-Impact of in reach on perceived accessibility of digital skills support

-Impact of digital champion on staff knowledge levels and practice

How is your project going to share learning?

We would share learning across the Q community and also networks across the UK who are already working on the area of digital inclusion (such as ‘digital communities wales’). We are also linked with a network of people involved in, ‘Inclusive Digital Transformation in Mental health services’ across the country via ‘Thrive by Design’ and we plan on sharing learning with this network as well as linking in with this group throughout this project.

In addition, through the initial research project based at University of Southampton (long term conditions research team), we plan on sharing the outcomes from this work with research colleagues also looking in to the area of digital exclusion and how our work could be applied to other areas/populations. We want to highlight the link between research and QI and hope to write up and publish both the original research and this QI project.

How you can contribute

  • We would appreciate:
  • A critical friend-providing challenge on the idea and helping us improve it
  • A networker-we're like to hear from others undertaking similar work who have insights to share

Plan timeline

7 Aug 2022 Scoping current provision and stakeholder event
7 Sep 2022 Peer support worker digital coach and digital champion training
7 Oct 2022 Establish outcome measures
9 Nov 2022 Pilot peer support work digital coach within exisiting digitial courses
15 Nov 2022 Start staff digital champion network
10 Jan 2023 Design pathway for 1:1 peer support work digital coach input
28 Mar 2023 Evaluate impact of staff digital champions
5 Apr 2023 Evaluate impact of PSW presence at exisiting digital courses
12 Apr 2023 Pilot pathway for 1:1 peer support work digital coach input
14 Jun 2023 Evaluate impact of 1:1 PSW input
18 Jul 2023 Review project outcomes and write up to share learning


  1. Hello there

    I love the look of this project because of it's applicability way beyond MH and into other areas of health/ access inequality. If honest, I also love it as I live on the IOW and wish there were more innovation, improvement and research projects going on as it's such a perfect place to try things like this out.

    My day job is running research and evaluation, and am linked via Solent to the IOW and so if you still need that critical friend or someone to support, I'd be really happy to help

    Good luck with it, gets my vote



    1. Thanks Sarah, either way I will be in touch as would be great to link in with you re: QI and research on the Island!

  2. Hi Rachael & team

    Great idea, will be interesting to see how you work with your community to enable your connectors and influencers to gain access to what is really strong in your community. Best of Luck Joe


    1. Thanks Joe, will make sure to share any learning through the ICS if our proposal goes through.

  3. Hi Rachel, I read your idea with great interest. I feel that your timeline summarises the project overall quite neatly, but could do with some refinement, especially to add some of the dimensions Jo outlined. It feels to me as some of the aspects that feature in the timeline could also get a little more focus in the overall narrative to really make it clear what the project is about.

    1. Thank you for the feedback, very helpful, will spend some time on the application to make it clearer.

  4. Hi Rachael. i think our ideas are both quite similar, focused on inequality. Check out my one here Digital Innovation is for Everyone – supporting digital inclusion across healthcare | Q Community. If we are successful it would be good to share learning. Annabelle

    1. Yes definitely, just read yours now, be really helpful to share experiences and learning with this.

  5. Hi Rachael

    Reading your idea brought to mind a previous Q Exchange-funded project that was focusing on co-designing a supported self-management programme. They have lots of useful learning on the co-design experience and where and how Q Exchange funding added value to this work, that may be worth you looking at. Helen Davies-Cox shared her learning in a recent Q Insight project, and this case study also provides a link to the Q Exchange project page.

    The learning from this project for me highlights the need to factor in time for co-design of a peer support project, especially the training and thinking about how to use the assets of your local communities. I imagine Q Exchange funding could provide a really good opportunity for you to dedicate resources to do this that you may not otherwise have.

    Best of luck developing your idea


    1. Thank you for this, will have a read of the co-design work and think about how we can learn from this when finalising our project plan.

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