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Education and Health Secretaries urged to address lack of digital skills and equipment hampering effective delivery of online healthcare and teaching services

Friday 18 June 2021

In letters sent today to the Secretary of State for Education, the Rt. Hon. Gavin Williamson CBE, MP and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Rt. Hon. Matt Hancock, MP, the cross-party House of Lords COVID-19 Select Committee has asked the Government to assess certain aspects of the provision of effective online healthcare and teaching services.

The Committee recently undertook a wide-ranging inquiry into how the pandemic has accelerated the use of, and reliance on, digital technology; thereby leapfrogging society into a hybrid future existence where real life and remote services are delivered side by side. During the inquiry the Committee frequently heard evidence that GPs and other health professionals and teachers often lacked the skills and equipment to operate effectively via the remote online space.

In following up this issue, the Committee has asked both Secretaries of State for details as to how each department is monitoring the extent to which health professionals have both the equipment and skills necessary to provide remote consultations as part of hybrid delivery of healthcare; and teachers have both the equipment and skills necessary to educate effectively in a hybrid learning environment where they will need to be “digital teachers”.

Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho, Chair of the COVID-19 Committee said;

“At the conclusion of our recent inquiry, it became evident that due to the pandemic, society has been catapulted headlong into a hybrid world where services are delivered in various mixes of online and offline ways.

“This hybrid world is here to stay; the last year has made this irreversible, and while some services are better and operate more effectively for some sections of society, there are many other vulnerable and disadvantaged people for whom this is not the case.

“We look forward to receiving the Government’s responses to the wider recommendations made in our April 2021 report. In the meantime, we urge the Government to respond to the specific questions raised in our letters and outline its plans to ensure that healthcare professionals and teachers have the necessary equipment and training to deliver effective services to all users as part of our post-pandemic hybrid future.”

Read the full letter to the Secretary of State for Education and the full letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

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