You are here:

Get online: take control of your health

Become a confident internet user

Being able to use the internet is becoming increasingly important. Many organisations expect that you can navigate the internet or perform transactions online, whether it is paying bills, booking GP appointments or finding a job. It is easy to assume that everyone can use the internet, but there are still over nine million people who struggle to get online because of a lack of access, skills, confidence or motivation.

The information on this site aims to help you become a more confident internet user and, in particular, access health information. We hope you’ll be able to gain a better understanding about health conditions, feel empowered to manage your health and be better prepared when talking to a health professional. 

Alternatively, you could use the information if you already know how to use the internet, but are unsure how to explain it to a friend or the person you care for.


Start getting some training

Everyone can learn how to use the internet, regardless of age, background, or skill level. Help is available, whether you need to start from scratch, want to improve your skills or just need a little help filling in an online form, setting up an email account or getting to grips with a mobile device.

Breezie and Age UK have teamed up to help older people learn how to set up and use devices such as tablets.

Take part in Get Online Week 2015

During Get Online Week, local events are held across the UK teaching people how to use the internet. This year’s Get Online Week is taking place from October 12th-18th. Information about different events will be published on the Get Online Week website, where you can also watch stories from people who took part in last year’s events.

Visit a UK online centre

There are many UK online centres throughout the country that offer training courses and support. Find a UK online centre near you.

If you feel a little more confident and you’d like to practice your skills at home, then try one of the Learn My Way online courses.

Watch the video An introduction to the internet from Learn My Way on YouTube. 

Explore your local library

Many local libraries offer internet access, e-books or training courses. Use the GOV.UK search tool to find a local library online or, if you already know a library, speak to a member of staff about what support is offered.

Macmillan Library Project  Macmillan Cancer Support has a permanent information area at Southampton Central Library. Library staff help people find the information they need and make use of the computers available at the library for confidential research about cancer. 


Find reliable health information

You can find a vast amount of health information online. A quick search for a condition such as cancer can bring up thousands of results. So how can you determine which websites are the most trustworthy?

Look for well-known sites

When looking for advice on specific conditions, look for well-known organisations and charities, such as NHS Choices, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society or MIND. Look for sites which end in .org (not-for-profit organisations) or .gov (government run).

NHS Choices, for example, has been certified as a producer of reliable health and social care information by The Information Standard, which is a certification scheme to help people decide which information is trustworthy.

Staying healthy with NHS Choices  Try this beginners course and learn how to find health information online using NHS Choices.

Cross-check the information

If the same details are repeated across many different websites, there's a greater likelihood of the information being accurate. Ask your doctor or carer if you're still not sure about something. 

Look for online support groups

Online support groups are great sources of information. Talking to other people living with a certain condition can be helpful and comforting.

Be wary of scams

Be wary of websites offering miracle cures. If something appears too good to be true, then it probably is.

Should you buy medicines online? Find out about the dangers of buying your prescription medicine from unregistered online pharmacies.  


Health apps

There are a multitude of health apps available which you can download to smart phones or tablets. Not all apps are free and some are better than others. To help you find your way through the maze of apps on offer and to help you keep your personal information safe, read our guide about downloading health apps.    


Online health transactions

Why don’t you save yourself an unnecessary trip to the GP practice and book your next appointment online? Online transactions can save time and make your life easier. You can log on any time of day and in the comfort of your own home.

They are also a great alternative if you tend to feel anxious in public situations, find telephone or face-to-face interactions stressful, or have a disability that makes it hard getting around.

The NHS offers a number of transactional services, with many already available via this website.

Use the NHS e-Referral Service

If you have been referred by your GP for an appointment with a healthcare provider, you may be able to book your appointment with the NHS e-Referral Service.

Register for GP online services

Ask your GP practice to register you for a GP online service. Many GPs offer online services that allow you to book GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions or view your GP records. Check with your GP practice what services are available and ask them to set you up with log-in details and explain how to use it.

Sign up for the course Using GP services online by Learn My Way.

Apply for an EHIC

Apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you plan to go on holiday abroad in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland. The card covers you for healthcare needs if you have a medical emergency while on holiday. Many travel insurance companies now require you to have an EHIC.

Report side-effects

Report any suspected side effects about medicines or medical equipment you use. Read more about the Yellow Card Scheme.

Create an information prescription

Information prescriptions allow you to create a printable document showing just the information you need about a particular condition.



Set yourself up for the best experience you can have. There are ways to change your computer or mobile device if, for example, you have trouble with your eyesight or hearing. Ask a friend or carer to help you make the text larger in different browsers, change keyboard or mouse settings, increase colour contrast or set up a screen reader.

NHS Choices has a close partnership with AbilityNet, a national charity that helps disabled adults and children to use computers and the internet. Our Get help with accessibility guide provides comprehensive, step-by-step instructions on how to adjust your computer and browser, according to your needs. Alternatively, you can call AbilityNet’s Advice and Information Helpline on 0800 269 545 directly for assistance.

Try the NHS 111 sign language service. NHS 111 offers telephone advice if you are worried about your health and not sure where to go for help. NHS 111 also offers a video relay service that allows you to make a video call to a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter. The BSL interpreter will call an NHS 111 adviser on your behalf and you’re then able to have a real-time conversation with the NHS 111 adviser, via the interpreter. You will need a webcam, a modern computer and a good broadband connection to use this service.

Community projects

The NHS is working with the Tinder Foundation to provide support and training in local communities to help people get online. Here are some examples:

  • mHealth Habitat in Leeds is working with the local NHS trust to provide free Wi-Fi in wards for people with dementia and mental health problems.
  • Inspire Communities is a social enterprise in Hull which is helping vulnerable, homeless and hard to reach groups get online and take control of their lives.
  • The Cooke e-Learning Foundation in Leicester is supporting the development of digital skills, particularly in the South Asian community.
  • CHANGE is a leading national human rights organisation led by disabled people. The organisation is helping the NHS to develop online training resources that are accessible for people with learning disabilities.


Page last reviewed: 08/10/2015

Next review due: 08/10/2017

Improving digital access

Read the Tinder Foundation's report, which highlights the health benefits of internet access

Welcome to Staying healthy with NHS Choices

UK online centres training course

Try this beginners course and learn how to find health information online using NHS Choices

Using GP services online

Sign up for the 'Using GP services online' course provided by Learn My Way.