Bath Voice News: letter to the editor from Age UK Bath & North East Somerset about digital exclusion – when people without access or digital skills are effectively excluded from accessing online help

Dear Editor of Bath Voice

End Digital Poverty Day is on Tuesday 12th September 

As your local charity supporting older people in the community, we believe having accessible information is key to ageing well.   We note the shift towards online services in the UK, including healthcare services and while we support efforts to modernise and improve the efficiency of our national healthcare services, we want to express some concerns about its potential impact on more vulnerable communities. 

Digital exclusion and the digital divide refer to the challenges faced by individuals with limited access to, or familiarity with, digital technologies. In today’s digital age, it is crucial to recognise that not everyone is technologically savvy, as already people are falling behind in this transition to digital services. Research shows that only half of adults over 75 are regular internet users and that due to lack of funds or skills, a staggering 10 million people lack the most basic digital skills. * 

Here are some key points to consider: 

  • Limited Technology Access: Older people and those with lower socioeconomic backgrounds may lack access to necessary devices and reliable internet connections. 
  • Digital Literacy: Many older adults lack the digital skills and/or confidence needed to navigate online platforms effectively, hindering their ability to schedule appointments, access medical records, or communicate with healthcare providers. 
  • Social Isolation: For some older people, in-person interactions at your surgery provide vital social connections. A complete shift to online services could intensify feelings of isolation and loneliness. 
  • Accessibility Challenges: Digital platforms may not be accessible to individuals with disabilities unless designed with accessibility in mind, further excluding some patients. 
  • Geographic Disparities: People in rural or remote areas may struggle to access online services due to limited internet infrastructure, exacerbating existing healthcare disparities. 
  • Privacy Concerns: Online platforms can raise privacy and security concerns for those unfamiliar with the digital world, potentially leading to reluctance to engage with healthcare services. 

We believe that we must all strive to balance the advantages of digitalisation with the inclusivity of our services. By proactively offering alternative methods of access and clearly communicating their availability, we can ensure that nobody in Bath and North East Somerset is left behind. 

We would also like to mention some Digital Inclusion services that Age UK Bath and North East Somerset currently offers that could be of interest to people using your surgery: 

  • FREE Tablet Loan Scheme: A 12-week program for older individuals facing financial or knowledge barriers. Participants receive a tablet, accessories, internet access, and guidance from a Digital Champion. 
  • Digital Drop-ins: Various digital support sessions across Bath and North East Somerset, including at Bath Central Library and Keynsham Library. 
  • Weekly Click Café: Every Wednesday, 10am to 12pm at St Michaels Community Centre, Bath. Appointments can be booked via 01225 466135 or

We appreciate the consideration of these concerns and are more than happy to collaborate to ensure equitable access to services for everyone or where there is an identified unmet need for Digital Inclusion. 

Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.  

Yours faithfully, Simon Allen

Chief Executive Officer 

Age UK Bath & North East Somerset 

Simon Allen