NHS England has revealed that 200,000 homeless, older and vulnerable people have had ‘lessons’ to help them get online and contact their doctor, to reduce GPs visits and thus save money and resources.

In the first two years of the NHS England pilot scheme ‘Widening Digital Participation’, 14,000 people registered with a GP and looked online first before contacting the doctor. 

Half of those who would normally have visited a GP or A&E department said they would now use NHS Choices, 111 or a pharmacy first, thus potentially streaming a significant number away from over-stretched services.

More than 12 million people in the UK do not have basic digital skills. The scheme, run by the Tinder Foundation for NHS England, works with hardest-to-reach communities to give help them access online health information.

Officials say that more than 300,000 people have now been reached, with 180,000 directly trained to use digital health resources and tools in the last three years.

In a survey of 1,000 participants, 83% said they felt more confident about using online health tools to manage their health as a result of the training, while 34% noted that they made fewer visits to a doctor as a result of finding the information they needed online.

“We’ve seen first-hand through this programme the huge impact digital can have on people’s lives - helping them to find out about how to stay healthy, how to manage and find the best treatment for existing conditions, and how to find the right services for them,” said Helen Milner, Tinder’s chief executive.