New review examines digital inclusion in health and care to focus efforts in the region

A review published by the Academic Health Science Network (AHSN NENC) and Collective Impact Agency has made a number of recommendations with an aim to address the extent of digital exclusion within the region.

Health and care services are becoming increasingly digitalised, yet widening inequalities has been cited as a risk of delivering more care digitally.[1] In the UK, it is estimated that around 10 million people lack the most basic digital skills and at least 2 million struggle to afford internet access. It has further been reported that the North East and North Cumbria face levels of digital exclusion higher than the national average.[2]

The review from the AHSN NENC and Collective Impact Agency was commissioned by the Integrated Care Board for the North East and North Cumbria to understand the work that’s happening around the region, how the issues around digital exclusion impact on people’s health and surface best practice. This work forms part of the region’s drive to prioritise digital inclusion and examines some of the policies and literature surrounding digital inclusion and digital healthcare from around the UK. It identifies common themes and seeks to identify where efforts, investment and resources could be best focused to ensure that initiatives to improve digital inclusion are effective and far reaching within the region.

Dave Belshaw, Digital Transformation Director at the AHSN NENC, said: “Digital technology is changing the way health and care services are delivered, so it’s important that we address digital inclusion so that no one is left behind. The fact that the North East and North Cumbria face levels of digital exclusion higher than the national average should be a real wake-up call, and reinforces that as a region we need to act now.

“The report and recommendations will help us to understand where we can focus our efforts to make the greatest impact so that digital inequalities in the North East and North Cumbria are addressed.”


Executive Chief Digital and Information Officer, NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board, Professor Graham Evans, said: “This work is vital to aid our understanding of digital inclusion and how it impacts on the people within our region. There is a lot of incredible work going on across the North East and North Cumbria, but what we want to understand as a system the key issues, insights and to find best practice we can learn from in addressing digital inclusion.

“We want to ensure that we consider and implement digital inclusion in the design of new solutions, otherwise we could make the situation worse. As the report highlights, our population has a greater likelihood of health inequalities so we can make accessing services even harder by introducing digital technology. We welcome this report and the insight it brings; I encourage everyone working in and around our health and care services to read the report and reflect on how we introduce any new digital solution, and how this impacts people excluded in the different ways the report highlights.”

View and download the ‘Making health and care digitally inclusive in the North East and North Cumbria’ review here

If you’d like to get involved in this work as it continues, the AHSN NENC hosts a Digital Inclusion Forum. Contact Rachael Forbister for more information.


[1] Good Things Foundation – Digital Inclusion in Health and Care

[2] Good Things Foundation – Building a Digital Nation