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Putting local people in Lancashire and South Cumbria at the heart of digital health plans

Last year Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria asked the Healthwatch Collaborative (Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Cumbria and Lancashire) to help them find out what local people think about using digital technology to manage their health and wellbeing. Almost 2,000 people got involved in the conversation about digital health. Today (26 February 2019), Healthwatch have published the resulting ‘Have your say: digital health’ report.

The aim of the project was to explore how local people currently use technology to manage their health and wellbeing – and that of their families and those they support or care for. Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria wanted to learn about the challenges people might face when using digital technology, to understand how the health and care system can better support people to use digital tools and to hear their ideas about improvements for the future.

Between summer and autumn 2018, 1,225 online and paper survey responses were collected, 500 people had in depth conversations at 38 community events and 185 people took part in 12 focus group sessions. Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria will use the recommendations made by local people in the ‘Have your say: digital health’ report to inform the region’s digital health delivery plan for 2019/20 as they bring the digital strategy to life.

Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria launched Our Digital Future, the digital health strategy for Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria, in June 2018. This strategy sets out how digital tools, services and new ways of working will support the future improvement and transformation of health and care services across the region. At the heart of this is the goal to empower local people to live longer, healthier lives. A core feature of the digital strategy centres around engaging people, patients, voluntary, community and faith organisations – as well as health and care services themselves – in making decisions about how digital technology can be used to improve the health and care of local people.

Dr Amanda Thornton, Digital Health Clinical Lead for Healthier Lancashire andSouth Cumbria said: “We wanted to hear how we could help empower every person to feel confident and capable of making informed decisions about their health and wellbeing, recognising that for some people technology is already playing an important part in supportingthis.

We need to get it right and enable people to become confident to go online and access information that would help them manage their own health and wellbeing more easily – whenever they want to and wherever they are. There are many different ways you can access health services and advice online – including booking doctor’s appointments, ordering repeat prescriptions, as well as through a wide range of health apps and websites designed to help you look after your health and wellbeing – whether you want to better manage an existing condition, get fit or try out something new such as mindfulness.

As our digital offer grows, we hope people will find it easier and more convenient to use online services, but not forgetting that technology will never replace the care and compassion that comes from our dedicated workforce. We know digital will not work for everybody. Some people struggle with computers and not everybody has access to the internet. For those who would like to use digital but cannot, our aim will be to find ways to help them get online.

It’s invaluable for us to have this real insight from local people and we are already using it to prioritise our digital health plans. We are hugely grateful to all of the people who took the time to have their say and to Healthwatch for their support with this project.” 

Healthwatch is the public voice for health and social care and exists to make services work for the people who use them, believing that the best way to do this is to provide people with opportunities to share their views and experiences. Their focus is on understanding the needs, experiences and concerns of people of all backgrounds and ensuring everyone has the chance to be heard.

Sheralee Turner-Birchall, Engagement Manager at Healthwatch Blackpool said:

“It seems that for health and wellbeing organisations implementing technology is relatively ‘the norm’, however it is another thing to ask patients, carers and service users to embrace it.  This project provided the four local Healthwatch and Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria with some really insightful feedback from the citizens of Blackpool and across the wider area of Lancashire and South Cumbria, particularly in addressing the myths that certain individuals and groups of people do or do not use or wish to use technology.

Healthwatch Blackpool looks forward to seeing how the feedback gathered informs future long term plans to introduce new technology in the NHS and social care and how this impacts and benefits local people”.

You can download the ‘Have your say: digital health’ report here: https://healthwatchblackpool.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Your-say-digital-health-report.pdf

To find out more about digital health plans for Lancashire and South Cumbria, visit https://healthierlsc.co.uk/digitalfuture