Government moves to a single point of delivery of its ‘digital by default’ public services (see previous blog post) will not be followed by the NHS. After nearly a decade, the National Programme for IT has failed in plans to provide NHS patients with an individual electronic care record transferable across the UK. In a step which is either backwards or forwards, it’s difficult to tell, local hospital trusts will be able to choose their own systems. Either way, it’s back to square one. A good moment to re-publicise the System Error report, crucial reading for anyone interested and concerned with government plans for Universal Credit due to rolled out online next year.
Also worth reading is the recent report by Ellen J Helsper (London School of Economics and Political Science) called The Emergence of a Digital Underclass: Digital Policies in the UK and Evidence for Inclusion. Highlighting links between social exclusion and the potential for digital exclusion, a key message is ‘Those who need access to services most, from where the biggest cost savings through the digitisation of services are supposed to come, are the least likely to take these up even when access is available.’ Focusing on quality of access, the report raises issues around literacy, skills and motivation. As if that weren’t enough reasons for exclusion, it fails to mention users of assistive technologies who face additional barriers of cost, support and exclusive design. But the message is clear. The move to digital by default services will inevitably damage the welfare of those who need support the most.