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Unlocking the digital front door

A National Voices project

Unlocking the Digital Front Door

Exploring practical ways to support people who might find it difficult to access virtual or remote health services and who might be affected by wider inequalities.

Stevie Corbin-Clarke and Dr Mel Hughes from the BU Research Centre for Seldom Heard Voices have been collaborating with National Voices on a project which aimed to develop an understanding of practical ways to support people who might find it difficult to access virtual or remote health services and who might be affected by wider inequalities.

Covid-19 has meant changes in the way that people access services and accelerated a move to virtual and remote models of care – a digital “front door”. This has opened up may opportunities for innovation to develop easier access, but has also thrown a spotlight on inequalities, barriers for people to access health and social care and a digital divide.

With the pandemic leading the NHS to move to a "111 First" approach, with digital-first access encouraged for primary care, it has become essential that health and social care services adapt in order to be inclusive and responsive to people from all backgrounds and with a range of needs. Through our listening exercise we explored people’s experience of this rapid shift.

We hoped to explore what a more joined-up and person-centred experience of care looks like, how virtual services could meet the full range of clinical, emotional and practical needs of people at risk of exclusion and address the barriers to access and use confronting some groups. We wanted to address barriers to good care and improve health and wellbeing outcomes, particularly for those people who have high burdens of ill health and who are affected by inequality.

The report also explores how the move to remote service models impacted people and how the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector (VCSE) has led innovative ways to deliver healthcare and support people during the COVID 19 pandemic.

Research partners

Our report

National Voices report front cover

You can read our full report at National Voices, where you'll also find;

  • a literature review and insight data, derived from interviews with people at risk of exclusion.
  • personal narratives - people's experiences of digital, COVID, exclusion and innovation.
  • a call to action, which brings together the insight and practice of our members, and the learning from our widespread engagement and insight work. This includes recommendations for better practice, better policy, and better innovations.
  • a poster/leaflet that explains to people what they can expect when using services now. This poster has been endorsed by the RCGP, RCP, Healthwatch England and many of our members.

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