DoH internet push 'increasing health inequalities'

Many people are unable to access and understand information that could help them choose and use the NHS effectively, according to Birmingham University researchers.

They say most patient information is in leaflets or via the internet yet a third of households do not have the internet and 20% of British people struggle to read.

Giving patients access to better information about local health services is central to the government’s policy of encouraging patient choice, particularly through NHS Choices (www.nhs.uk).

Report author Jo Ellins said: ‘Older people, ethnic minority communities and those on lower incomes are among the groups who are most likely to have literacy problems and least likely to use the internet.

‘Evidence shows that alternative ways of delivering information are far more successful at reaching these groups. More effective alternatives include telephone helplines, digital television and community education programmes.

‘The way in which this information is currently provided restricts opportunities for informed choice to more educated and affluent patients. There is a very real danger that this is sustaining, or even increasing, health inequalities.’

neil.durham@haymarket.com

  • Is the DoH right to prioritise NHS Choices?

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