Digital technology and health inequalities

NHS Wales has published a framework for considering how lack of access, skills and motivation for using digital technologies could affect health outcomes. 

Digital technology and health inequalities: a scoping review draws on existing literature to look at patterns in the underlying components of digital exclusion and how to mitigate against widening health inequalities.

It says digital exclusion could lead to worse health outcomes through:

  • Direct routes – where health services use digital technologies which cannot be accessed
  • Indirect routes – where access to the wider determinants of health, such as housing or employment, become dependent on digital access routes

The report says concepts of digital and health literacy, as well as trust and privacy concerns, are likely to be important in the success of digital health initiatives.

It calls for more UK-specific and local data about digital exclusion and health inequalities, alongside constant monitoring of the nature of digital exclusion, which changes over time.

While the review found no evidence conclusively establishing that digital exclusion is leading to worsening health inequalities, it says health services seeking to make best use of digital technologies must take into account:

  • The remaining barriers to using digital technologies that some groups face
  • New opportunities to improve health for some groups because of the way they use digital technologies.

NHS Wales

Animation: How to access your GP

NHS England has created an animation to help explain to the public how they can continue to access GP services.

The short video, available via YouTube, includes how to get in touch, the different ways care may be delivered and how face-to-face appointments have changed.

The need to clearly communicate how people can access care was highlighted in our recent Covid Choices survey.


Advice on maintaining cancer recovery

A letter has been released by NHS-advised medical practitioners on the most effective ways to continue treating cancer patients during COVID-19.

The letter, sent to all trusts on behalf of NHS England, calls for the maintenance of a patient-centred focus by:

  • Ensuring there is no reduction or cessation of any cancer screening programmes and backlogs are cleared as a matter of urgency
  • Reopening any clinical trials that are still paused due to COVID-19
  • Assigning an individual pathway navigator to each patient to guide them through referral, diagnosis and treatment
  • Ensuring appropriate ‘safety netting’ of patients where it has been necessary to postpone treatment and agreeing and clearly communicating any changes to patients

NHS England

Management of patients with musculoskeletal and rheumatic conditions

An updated clinical guide for the management of patients with musculoskeletal and rheumatic conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic has been published on the British Society for Rheumatology website.

The guide covers patients who are already taking corticosteroids, require initiation of oral/IV corticosteroids, or require an intra-articular or intra-muscular corticosteroid injection.

It relates to MSK service provision across primary, community and secondary care, including rheumatology, orthopaedics and pain services.

The guide is supported by the British Association of Orthopaedics, British Association of Spinal Surgeons, Royal College of General Practitioners, British Society of Skeletal Radiologists, Faculty of Pain Medicine and Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

British Society for Rheumatology

COVID-19 vaccine and health inequalities

A paper has been published considering the impact on and implications for health inequalities in the prioritisation of COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccine and health inequalities: considerations for prioritisation and implementation, expands on the considerations informing the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation interim advice on priority groups.

The currently proposed prioritisation supports the reduction of health inequalities between age groups.

However, the report says it is important to keep in mind that prioritising some groups over others may have unintended consequences. 

Public Health England's Beyond the Data report highlighted how stakeholders expressed deep dismay, anger, loss and fear in their communities about the realities of BAME groups being harder hit by the COVID-19 pandemic than others. 

Some communities also reported increased experiences of stigma and discrimination. 

The report says it is 'paramount' that prioritisation and roll-out of the vaccine does not reinforce these negative stereotypes and further increase experiences of stigma and discrimination.


12 steps to eliminate digital exclusion

Carnegie Trust UK has published a response to the challenges of digital exclusion exposed by COVID-19.

Learning from Lockdown: 12 Steps to Eliminate Digital Exclusion sets out 12 recommendations which build on the trust's work on digital inclusion over the past decade.

The recommendations include:

  • A call for the UK Government and devolved governments to publish revised digital inclusion strategies
  • Prioritisation of co-production with people who have lived experience of digital exclusion
  • Embedding digital inclusion into all public services, including health
  • A public safety net through continued digital access at libraries and health and welfare services

Carnegie UK Trust

Call for examples of personalised care and support for Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities

Think Local Act Personal is looking for examples demonstrating what good personalised community-based care and support look like for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

The project is particularly interested in examples of:

  • Organisations providing care and support that have developed good inclusive practice
  • People organising their own support through a direct payment
  • Grassroots community organisations and voluntary, community and social enterprise sector organisations, who are specifically working with and for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities
  • Council approaches to reducing care inequalities and improving equality of outcomes

Click on the link below for more information and details of how to submit a case study.


Reducing health inequalities associated with COVID-19

NHS Providers has published a framework setting out core principles for understanding and taking action on health inequalities that have developed or worsened as a result of COVID-19. 

It is intended to support NHS trusts during the delivery of surge plans, as well as in service restoration and recovery action.

NHS Providers

Coronavirus: Support for rough sleepers

A House of Commons Library briefing paper outlines the measures taken in England to support rough sleepers, and those at risk of rough sleeping, during the coronavirus outbreak.

It discusses the impact of these measures, including the Government's Everyone In initiative, and stakeholder comment.

UK Parliament

Study: Supporting health literacy in community pharmacies

A new study examines the impact of establishing a communication environment which improves health literacy in Hungarian community pharmacies.

More than 300 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians and more than 800 patients completed two cross-sectional questionnaire surveys.

The surveys were carried out before and after three days of postgraduate health literacy-focused communication training followed by the ‘train the trainer’ teaching method at pharmacies.

The mean score of the preintervention patient group was 64.07% which increased to 72.72% by the end of the project. 

For staff, the mean score of the initial questionnaires was 74.47%, and that of the final questionnaires was 85.21%. 

Authors concluded the methodology can be used to develop the communication skills of a large number of professionals in a short time with a small number of instructors.

This means it is worthwhile introducing this methodology as part of compulsory postgraduate training.

BMJ Open

COVID-19 lessons for how pharma should support patient advocacy

In this article, Trio Health’s Neil McGregor-Paterson asks whether the healthcare industry has paid enough attention to the patient voice during COVID-19.

He looks at how pharma can improve the patient experience across the sector and become an important partner in the fight against health inequalities.


MSD wins at Pharma Industry Awards 2020

PIF member MSD has won first prize in the Communications Award at the Pharma Industry Awards 2020.

The award was picked up for the Making Moments Matter campaign, conducted by the Marie Keating Foundation in partnership with MSD and co-sponsored by Bristol Myers Squibb.

The campaign saw patients and families from all over the country tell the stories of significant moments in their lives since being diagnosed with lung cancer or losing a loved one. 

Working closely with artist Steven Farrell, each patient crafted their own ‘memento jar’ to help tell their story.

Find out more about the awards and see the full list of winners by clicking on the link below.

Pharma Industry Awards

Eye health tips for winter

The College of Optometrists has issued eye health tips for winter as the weather turns colder and people spend more time indoors.

Tips include advice on screen time and children's play.

The college has also developed an eye health poster for members to highlight the different ways winter can affect vision and exacerbate eye conditions. 

College of Optometrists