Headlines: July 19th, 2006

Almost one person in three believes they are unable to access the benefits of electronic NHS services because of where they live. The first part of a national study published by ntl:Telewest Business shows the fact that digital services are available at some GP practices but not at others is creating concern among patients that some areas are reaping the benefits of NHS e-services faster than others.According to the research 16 per cent of people who took part in the study have access to one or more digital service such as electronic booking of appointments, electronic reminders or prescriptions. They live in technically advanced areas and are ahead of more than 80 per cent of people who have no access to digital services. Almost a third of those without access to the services said they felt negatively about the fact that some areas had access to services that had not yet been made available in their postcode area.

More than one in ten of that group said they were appalled by the situation and felt it was unacceptable. Meanwhile one in five people said they were not surprised as they felt that some regions of Great Britain were discriminated against when it came to accessibility to local health services. Nineteen per cent of respondents thought they were getting a worse service from their GPs than family members and friends who lived in other parts of Britain. The survey team believes this indicates that public concern over some areas advancing more than others in NHS delivery is rising.

Christopher Small, Director of Public Sector at ntl:Telewest Business said digital services were transforming the health service and could play a real part in improving patient care but because the onus was still at a local level to roll out the services, it was clear that technologically advanced areas were reaping more benefits faster.

“The ntl:Telewest Business research warns that this postcode lottery on the delivery of digital services could lead to some areas feeling left behind and lead to rising concerns from the public. More guidance is needed from the government at a grass roots level to help organisations finding it difficult to keep up with developments to prevent the emerging digital divide in the NHS from widening,” he said.

The survey, conducted by public research specialists YouGov, polled more than 2,200 people across the country. It showed that of those without access to digital services respondents from the Midlands, North East and the north of Scotland felt the most strongly that some regions were being discriminated against.