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Digital inclusion

The importance of digital inclusion

We are living in a digital world, something that most of us who've grown up with the internet, mobile phones and tablets take for granted.

Being able to perform online transactions such as paying bills or booking holidays is what we have come to expect from many services, and this includes the NHS.

There is an ever-growing expectation to be able to find health information, book GP appointments, or order repeat prescriptions online. The NHS is transforming to cater for these demands.

But people who currently use health services the most – and those who experience the greatest health inequalities – are less likely to be online or have basic digital literacy skills. This includes many older people, people with disabilities and long-term conditions, and those from socially deprived groups.

Digital inclusion is a term used for initiatives that help people gain access to online services, support them in using these services, and provide training in digital literacy skills.


Watch Norah's story on YouTube to find out how she improved her skills at Doncaster West Development Trust, and how she has used these new skills to make huge changes to her life and health.

How to get started

If you are not sure how to get started, why not visit one of the many UK Online Centres throughout the country that offer training courses and support.

Find a UK Online Centre near you

The Tinder Foundation manages the UK Online Centres network and supports thousands of community partners, helping them to be smarter about how they use digital technology. One of these programmes is Learn My Way, an online training programme ideal for people who don't know where to get started.

TipWatch Learn My Way – an introduction to the internet on YouTube. Also, try the course Staying healthy with NHS Choices


NHS England Widening Digital Participation flagships

Widening Digital Participation flagships are community-based projects that offer support and training to meet the needs of the local population.

This includes helping the groups that are most likely to experience health inequalities, such as black and minority ethnic groups, homeless people, substance-dependent people, and sex workers.

NHS Flagships throughout the country offer a variety of services to their local community. 

Bromley by Bow Centre

The Bromley by Bow Centre in East London helps families, young people and adults of all ages learn new skills, improve their health and wellbeing, and find employment.

Heeley Online Project

The Sheffield-based Heeley Online Project is run by the Heeley Development Trust. Now in its sixth year, the project delivers free, practical and accessible IT training in Heeley and across Sheffield.

Inspire Communities

Inspire Communities is a social entreprise run by Inspire Communities Ltd covering the Hull and East Riding area. They can help you get involved in community activities, work experience and learning that will improve your skills, confidence and employment chances.

Mayfair Community Centre

In Shropshire and Herefordshire, the Mayfair Community Centre offers IT drop-in sessions available to everyone who needs access to the internet. They also have skilled volunteers who can help you improve your IT skills and assist with any computer problems.

Cooke e-Learning Foundation

The Cooke e-Learning Foundation in Leicester aims to encourage local people to learn new skills and improve their chances of seeking employment. 

TipWatch Digital inclusion: supporting the Asian community in Leicester.


Macmillan Library Project

Macmillan Cancer Support now 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.

Breezie and Age UK

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

For more information about NHS Flagships, visit the Tinder Foundation website.


Page last reviewed: 14/05/2014

Next review due: 14/05/2016

Key stats about digital exclusion

More than 11 million people in the UK lack basic digital literacy skills.

More than 7 million people in the UK have never used the internet. Of this 7 million, around 85 per cent are over the age of 55.

Around 40 per cent of those aged 65 and over do not have access to the internet at home, and 5 million of these have never been online.

People with a disability are three times more likely to have never used the internet, and 4 million people with a disability have never been online.


Impact of digital inclusion

76% of people trained now feel more confident managing their health using online tools.

18% of people trained now feel more self-reliant and have reduced their use of the NHS.


Health Today Radio

Every two weeks experts, celebrities and guests talk about health, lifestyle and personal experiences with the NHS

Using GP services online

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

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

Improving digital access

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

Digital inclusion: supporting the Asian community in Leicester

Cooke e-Learning Centres help people in Leicester's more deprived areas get online. The centre helps older people and people with long-term conditions or mental health problems learn about computers and the internet while also building confidence, improving mental wellbeing and reducing isolation.

Media last reviewed: 27/03/2014

Next review due: 27/03/2016

Find health information online

Find out how to obtain reliable and accurate health information online and learn which sites are considered trustworthy.