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Wokingham Borough Council to review support for residents struggling to get online

wokingham borough council berkshire west ccg healthcare technology support covid coronavirus pandemic
Wokingham Borough Council and Berkshire West CCG said support is available for anybody struggling with technology Picture: Georg Arthur Pflueger from Unsplash

WOKINGHAM Borough Council will review its online support services to help elderly residents who are still struggling to get help online.

This is according to Cllr Charles Margetts, who said 7% of residents had difficulties using IT during the first wave of the pandemic.

“To help those residents, we introduced a digital inclusion programme to repurpose residents’ unwanted laptops and tablets for those who did not have devices of their own, primarily the elderly, vulnerable and deprived,” he said.

“We worked with local charities the Link Visiting Scheme and First Days on the project, with both charities providing support and training to those who needed it.”

The ‘Digital Donations’ initiative, which launched in January of this year, was aimed at reducing loneliness and isolation in the borough among households whose income fell below the poverty line.

Cllr Margetts said the scheme is now getting a once over to see if more support is necessary.

“We are now reviewing the programme and working with our partners to look at what our residents need and how we can best meet those needs,” he added.

“We are committed to ensuring all elderly, vulnerable and deprived borough residents who want to be digitally connected have that opportunity.”

A spokesperson for Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which runs a range of GP practices, said it understands some elderly residents have struggled to access online healthcare during the pandemic too.

They said with this in mind, it has offered alternative ways for people to attend their appointments while the virus is still a concern.

“We know that a one size fits all approach to virtual consulting isn’t suitable for all patients,” they said, “so face to face consultations with a GP or another healthcare professional at [surgeries] are always on offer in appropriate cases.

“Practices are [also] encouraged to take patient choice into account when offering appointments.”

The spokesperson said chronic conditions, including diabetes and asthma, may be reviewed over the phone, via video or face-to-face depending on patient needs.

“In all cases, patients will initially be triaged when they first contact the surgery so staff can make sure they get help from the right person at the right time, so if patients don’t have internet access they are advised to discuss this when they ring the surgery,” they added.

Berkshire West CCG also runs a network of ‘Digital Champions’ to support people who are struggling to access the internet.

“The champions, from all ages and walks of life, can explain technology to those who are new or nervous when it comes to using IT,” the spokesperson explained.

“They can get people connected to IT networks, answer questions and be a guiding hand to the less tech savvy members of the community.”

As part of the programme, Berkshire West CCG has teamed up with local councils, Age UK and Healthwatch.

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