NHS Widening Digital Participation

Good Things Foundation is running a three-year programme - Widening Digital Participation - funded by NHS Digital. Widening Digital Participation aims to reduce digital exclusion in the UK, and ensure people have the skills they need to access relevant health information and health services online. Phase 2 of the programme will run from April 2017 to March 2020, following Phase 1 which was delivered between 2013 and 2016.

Phase 2 will particularly focus on developing interventions and models that support the furthest first. During Phase 2 the programme will work with 20 Pathfinder projects across England. Projects will be focussed on working in partnership across an area, working with local authorities, NHS Testbeds, Vanguards, Health and Wellbeing boards, Public Health England and other local initiatives.

Follow the progress of Phase 2 at digital-health-lab.org

Phase 1

Phase 1 of the programme ran from September 2013 to March 2016 and used local community networks to support the use of expert online content, through Health Flagship centres and a wider Digital Health Information Network.

Our Health Flagship centres developed and trialled innovative new ways to engage people in digital health, while the wider Digital Health Network helped people throughout the UK to improve their digital skills and access health information online.

387,470 people were reached through the phase 1 of the programme, raising awareness of digital health resources.

221,941 people have been trained to improve their digital health literacy since the beginning of the programme.

8,138 volunteers have been trained to support the programme.

Visit the NHS Widening Digital Participation microsite 

Phase 1 key findings


  • The Widening Digital Participation Programme successfully reached large numbers of people who are both digitally excluded and at risk of poor health by tapping into the Online Centres Network – 221,941 people have learned to use online health resources through the programme.
  • Over half the participating centres worked with unemployed people, older people and/or people on low incomes as part of the programme. Disabled people, people with poor mental health and BAME communities were also engaged in large numbers.

Engagement models

Successful models for engaging and training people have included:

  • Embedding digital health in digital inclusion and embedding digital health learning within wider digital skills training.
  • Digital surgeries: engaging and training patients in a GP surgery.
  • Community outreach events: engaging and training people through community outreach activities and events.
  • Embedding digital health in informal learning: embedding digital health learning or awareness raising in non-digital activities such as healthy cooking classes.
  • Training health and care professionals: training health and social care professionals to use digital health resources with the public.
  • Social prescribing: referrals to Online Centres from within the health sector.


  • 96% of centres used partnerships with other organisations in their local community to reach people and/or deliver digital health training.
  • Many learners report going on to improve their diet, take up more exercise, reduce alcohol and tobacco consumption and find new ways to manage stress and anxiety.
  • Learners felt that accessing reliable health information online empowered them to take greater control over self-management of their own health and engage in more informed dialogue with health professionals.
  • In Year 2, more than 14,000 learners learned how to register with their GP and then use services.
  • Of the 34% of learners who would have gone straight to their GP or A&E for non-urgent medical advice, almost half (46%) have since said they would first seek advice by visiting websites like NHS (26%), going to a pharmacy (16%) or calling 111 (4%)

"The organisations we work with reach people that others can’t - they’re hyper-local, trusted, and able to adapt learning to people’s needs. They are vital to helping us meet our ambition of a world where everyone can benefit from digital, and Good Things Foundation is committed to supporting them to transform lives.” Helen Milner OBE, Chief Executive, Good Things Foundation

Project partners

NHS England NHS Digital

Get involved

We plan to run an event to share the findings of the programme early next year. If you are interested in the event please email press@goodthingsfoundation.org and we will contact you with further details in the future. To find evaluations, resources and information please visit the digital health lab.