COVID-19 prompts surge in the number of people using NHS tech in 2020

NHS Digital services saw a huge increase in use throughout 2020 as a result of social distancing and the need to access healthcare remotely.

The NHS website usually attracts around 30 million visits a month.

A peak in March saw a record 120 million visits and another peak in September saw 81 million visits.

The NHS App saw a 912% increase in users from 192,676 on December 11, 2019, to 1,951,640 on December 13, 2020.

In the last six months from June to November 2020, NHS 111 online recorded 3,569,917 sessions – a 257% increase on the same period in 2019.

The number of Electronic Prescription Service nominations increased from 33.07m on 13 December 2019 to 41.34m on 11 December 2020 – a rise of 8.27m last year compared with 33.07m in the previous 10 years.

NHS Digital

Guideline on managing the long-term effects of COVID-19

NICE, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network have published a guideline on the management of the long-term effects of COVID-19, also known as Long COVID.

The guideline covers the care of people who have signs and symptoms that develop during or after an infection consistent with COVID-19, that continue for more than four weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis. 

It provides recommendations based on the current evidence and expert consensus, and will be adapted as new evidence emerges.


Chief Medical Officer’s report outlines health challenges in England

The first independent annual report by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has found wide variations in health, many of which are avoidable.

Health trends and variation in England found:

  • Higher levels of ill-health and disease in deprived areas
  • More people suffering from multiple chronic conditions, particularly in rural parts of the country with large elderly populations and less accessible health facilities
  • Stalled improvements in life expectancy in recent years


Scotland's Wellbeing: The Impact of COVID-19

Analysis by the Scottish Government show the impact of COVID-19 on the National Outcomes.

Scotland's Wellbeing: The Impact of COVID-19 found the negative effects of the pandemic have been borne unequally and will have long-lasting impact.

The negative effects have also both worsened and been worsened by pre-existing inequalities.

Scottish Government

Digital inclusion in mental health

The Association of Mental Health Providers and the Mental Health Network’s Digital Mental Health Forum have published a guide to help increase choice and improve access to mental health services.

Digital inclusion in mental health aims to increase digital inclusivity within mental health provider organisations.

It will help providers ensure everyone has choice in the care they receive and nobody is excluded due to a lack of digital access, confidence or skills.

The guide was informed by individuals who access or provide services from across the statutory, voluntary, and independent mental health sector.

Association of Mental Health Providers

2021 GP Patient Survey is live

The 2021 GP Patient Survey, a key source of information about the performance of GP practices and CCGs, is now live.

Resources to help promote the survey are available here.

GP Patient Survey

Chatbot launched to tackle COVID-19 misinformation

Experts in computational communication at the Universities of Liverpool and Dundee have launched a chatbot enabled website to help improve people’s ability to spot misinformation.

The Fake News Immunity Chatbot, which brings classical philosophers to the screen, is designed to be a quiz-like game that is fun and easy to access.

It is hoped the chatbot will help people to develop critical thinking skills which strengthen their digital literacy.

University of Liverpool

Headsmart campaign translated into Arabic

The Headsmart campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of brain tumours in children and teenagers, has been translated for use in Arabic speaking countries.

The campaign was created by PIF member The Brain Tumour Charity.

It has been working with paediatric neuro-oncologist Nisreen Amayiri from the King Hussain Cancer Center in Jordan to roll out the Headsmart campaign to an international audience. 

Materials, including branding, a new website and the popular symptom cards, can now be used in 25 countries around the world with Arabic as a primary language.

The Brain Tumour Charity

Study: Experiences of seeking health information online for long-term physical childhood conditions

A new systematic review explores parents and carers’ experiences of seeking online information and support for long-term physical childhood conditions.

It found benefits of online information and support included reassurance and validation and feeling they had greater knowledge about their child’s conditions. 

Concerns often stemmed from prior unsatisfactory experiences, consultations with health professionals and seeing distressing stories online.

The need for information was particularly apparent early after diagnosis of the condition, whereas the need for peer support continued. 

The potential concerns and perceived risks with information and support online were especially apparent among parents and carers of children with life-limiting long-term conditions.

BMJ Open

COVID-19 rapid guideline: vitamin D

Rapid guidance on vitamin D in relation to COVID-19 has been published by NICE in collaboration with Public Health England and the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.

The guidance supports current government advice for everyone to take a 10 microgram (400IU) vitamin D supplement every day throughout the autumn and winter. 

The panel also concluded there is currently not enough evidence to support taking vitamin D solely to prevent or treat COVID-19. 

It recommends more research be conducted on the subject.


Careful phrasing of requests by hospital staff could help people with dementia accept care

New research looked at the different ways of asking people with dementia to perform tasks or to agree to requests while they are in hospital. 

It found having a range of ways of making requests led to more positive responses from patients who were confused or resisting care.

Professionals' phrasing, tone and question construction altered the chance of a positive response.

The findings have been used to develop training materials to help professionals improve the way they communicate with hospital patients who have dementia.


Fears and concerns about COVID-19 vaccination

In this article for The King's Fund, Dan Wellings says understanding and involving local communities, their needs and concerns will be an important part of any vaccination roll-out.

Discussing the results of a recent study published in Nature, he says issues with uptake could further exacerbate health inequalities.

The data suggests many of the groups in society who have already been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 are those who are least likely to say they will be vaccinated.

The King's Fund

Three digital health companies join forces to enable GP video sharing

Cognitant Group, eConsult Health and HCI have joined forces to allow GPs to easily share health information with patients following an online consultation.

Up to 27 million patients will have access to GP-approved videos covering a wide variety of health topics such as maternity, diabetes, contraception, COPD and asthma.

Digital Health

Study: Relationships between patients' data tracking, data sharing and health literacy

A new study aims to examine the relationships between patient-generated data (PGD) tracking, sharing and health literacy among individual patients.

Authors concluded, although tracking PGD could help patients better engage with health care providers, it may not provide patients with sufficient information to manage their health. 

The gap between tracking and sharing PGD with health care providers calls for efforts to inform patients of how their data relates to their health and to facilitate efficient clinician-patient communication. 

To realise the full potential of PGD and promote individuals’ health literacy, empowering patients to effectively track and share their PGD is important – something both technologies and health care providers can help with.