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's paying bills, booking GP appointments, or finding a job.

It's easy to assume that everyone can use the internet, but there are still more than 9 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 access health information online.

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.

You could also use this information if you already know how to use the internet but aren't sure 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 like tablets.

Get Online Week

Get Online Week is an annual event held across the UK. The aim is to teach people how to use the internet. 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 practise your skills at home, try one of the Learn My Way online courses.

Watch 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 of a library, speak to a member of staff about what support they can offer.

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 the NHS website, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Age UK, Alzheimer's Society or Mind. Look for sites that end in .org (not-for-profit organisations) or .gov (government run).

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

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.

Online health transactions

Why not save yourself an unnecessary trip to the GP 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're 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 through 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 what services are available at your GP practice, and ask them to set you up with log-in details and explain how to use it.

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.


Set yourself up for the best experience you can have. You can change your computer or mobile device set-up if you have trouble with your eyesight or hearing, for example. 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.

The NHS website has a close partnership with AbilityNet, a national charity that helps disabled adults and children to use computers and the internet.

AbilityNet has a guide that provides instructions on how to adjust your computer and browser according to your needs, such as for sight or hearing problems.

Read the AbilityNet guide to adjusting your computer. Or 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're 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'll 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 that helps vulnerable, homeless and hard to reach groups get online and take control of their lives.
  • E2: Empowering through Education in Leicester supports 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 develop online training resources that are accessible for people with learning disabilities.

Page last reviewed: 08/10/2015
Next review due: 08/10/2018