Understanding the impact on Primary Care services and patients in Darlington during the Covid-19 pandemic - Digital Exclusion

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Summary of report content

This project, grant funded by Healthwatch England and match funded by Darlington Primary Care Network looked at how the impact that moving to remote appointments affected people who may find it more challenging to access care remotely or virtually.

It was found that generally, remote consultations worked well, creating some great opportunities for a different way of working for professionals, and a more convenient way for patients to access services, however, some faced difficulties, especially those from socially deprived areas without access to digital equipment, or who cannot afford the extra data needed. People, whose first language is not English, found making appointments or speaking to a GP over the phone challenging, and for those with learning disabilities, most felt a face-to-face appointment was better. 

Going forward, it will be necessary for services to consider individual needs and circumstances whilst embracing the convenience of a more digitally enabled service for those that wish to interact in this way. Health and care services need to continue working together with an increased focus on tackling digital inclusion to support individuals and communities, particularly those most vulnerable or experiencing disadvantage.

Methodology:

Interviewed: One male aged 65, one male aged 72, one female aged 65+, one female aged 73 and one female aged 70.

Interviewed: One female patient aged 72 with a hearing impairment, one female wheelchair user. Online focus group: Four males over the age of 25, two females over the age of 25 (Focus group hosted by Darlington Association on Disability (DAD)).

A Healthwatch volunteer (and Darlington Borough Council (DBC) ward councillor) who is a prominent member of the ethnic minority community interviewed 4 males and 6 females (ethnic minority) by telephone.

HWD held a focus group with professionals to gather feedback on their perspective of the project.

Recommendations

1. Health and care services should continue working together with an increased focus on tackling digital inclusion to support individuals and communities, particularly those vulnerable or experiencing disadvantage.

2. Ensure the momentum of communities working together during the pandemic is supported for more joined-up approaches and sharing of resources and community assets to find solutions for those most socially deprived.

3. The provision of digital access through community organisations such as libraries, community centres and health and care services.

4. Health and care commissioners to continue to work together to explore ways to reduce the cost of digital access for our communities including working with local businesses to provide free public Wi-Fi.

5. Digitally excluded risk losing their voice and access to services as more emphasis is placed on online solutions. GP services must ensure they have the necessary communication methods for all their patients.

6. All GP practices should review their accessible information policy and/or interpreting and translation policy ensuring that there a clear focus on the support available for non-speaking English patients.

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General details

Report title 
Understanding the impact on Primary Care services and patients in Darlington during the Covid-19 pandemic - Digital Exclusion
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Darlington
Date of publication 
Wednesday, 30 June, 2021
Key themes 
Access
Booking appointments
Communication between staff and patients
Digitalisation of services
Health inequalities
Quality of appointment

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Yes
What type of organisation requested the work 
Healthwatch England
Primary research method used 
Consultation
Focus group
Structured interview
Unstructured Interview

Details of health and care services included in the report

Primary care services 
GP practice

Details about conditions and diseases

Types of disabilities 
Hearing
Mobility

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
23
Age group 
All people 18 and over
Gender 
All
Ethnicity 
All
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Does the information include public's views? 
Yes
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
No
Does the information include staff's views? 
Yes
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 
Not known

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
 
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
 
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.