In response to the challenges posed by the lockdown when it was brought in in March, the Leeds People’s Voices Group (PVG) formed the Digital Inclusion Subgroup to pull together the information on what people were telling us about their experiences, and in particular hearing the experiences of those with the greatest health inequalities.

The lockdown brought with it some radical changes to how people are able to access health and care services. Face to face meetings with healthcare staff were dramatically  reduced and it meant that some of the digital changes that service providers were hoping to introduce slowly were forced to be activated quickly to be able to continue to deliver services. This work has looked at where digital was getting things right for people and also where digital might not be the right mechanism to deliver specific services.

Whilst many people have been able to positively access services in these new ways such as video calls, phone calls, text messages it is important that as a city that we recognise and understand that barriers are in place that enable some people to access services in this way, such as access to WiFi, skills to use digital, worries about using digital.  As well as understanding that for some health and care interventions digital may not be the best means to deliver the service.

Forum Central has been part of the working group and the information gathered through the Communities of Interest network has fed into this work.  A briefing has identified the main barriers for people around using digital as well as making recommendations for the Leeds health and care system and individual organisations to ensure that the move to digital does not further increase the inequalities gap in Leeds.

The briefing also importantly highlights that this is a changing and evolving landscape so people’s experiences need to be understood in real-time as future planning takes place. In light of this the PVG will act as a hub of insight and information gathered about people’s experiences. A quarterly citywide update will be developed, with a focus on the voice of people with the greatest health inequalities.

To become part of this work please email Healthwatch Leeds at [email protected]