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Secretary of State asked for detail of the government plans to end digital exclusion of older people

The National Pensioners’ Convention is asking the Secretary of State responsible for tackling digital exclusion if he is simply paying ‘lip service’ to helping more older people get online.

In a letter to the Rt. Hon. Oliver Dowden MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, NPC General Secretary Jan Shortt cited the government’s current bid to ‘data grab’ everyone’s personal health files from GPs in England as a prime example.

The UK’s largest campaign group says all the information about NHS Digital’s plans to extract all the records to a central data base by 1st September can only be found on their website – and the only way you can choose to ‘opt-out’ of the data grab is by downloading a form for your GP online.

The NPC had written to the Minister asking about government plans on digital inclusion and exclusion of older people, but were dissatisfied by his reply. In response, the NPC is calling on the government to invest more to ensure that the drive to digital-only by the government and businesses does not exclude those who are not or cannot for whatever reason, get online.

In a new letter to the Minister on Digital Inclusion and Exclusion, Jan Shortt said: “Although you say it is a priority to ensure that nobody is left behind, there is no actual action stated in your letter as to what is intended to make that so.

The issue of patients’ records being collected by NHS Digital; the fact that everything to date has been online - nobody actually knew about it until a week or so ago - is a serious case in point. Although the process has now been delayed for two months, we are still concerned about the method of contact with 55 million patients, and an open, transparent explanation of the terms of reference for access to data, third party security and commercial use.”

She added: “We would like to know what investment the government is making not only to encourage those who are currently not online to access equipment and facilities, but also to ensure that everyone can access information and services in alternative ways. There is a fundamental human right to information and the government has powers to use in the event of discrimination against one or more sections of society who are, for whatever reason, not online and are therefore deprived of that information.”

The letter also questions the government’s actions to tackle online fraud, which worries so many older people.

Jan commented: “The NPC gave the Minister a whole list of ways in which older people and those without technology are systematically being ignored. His sparse reply seems to imply the government is simply paying ‘lip service’ to this serious issue.”


Your can download the press release below

NEWS - NPC says government paying lip se
Download • 80KB

*The response from the Ministerial Team to our letter of 12 April and the full draft of the NPC letter to the Minister today - available below.

FIRST oliver.dowden.dcms.april.21 (003)
Download • 144KB
Letter from Minister - Oliver Dowden MP
Download • 124KB
oliver.dowden.dcms.june.21 (003)
Download DOC • 140KB

**The NPC has joined forces to stop an NHS Digital ‘data grab’ of GP records in England, with a non-profit coalition including Foxglove, Just Treatment, Doctors’ Association UK, all the Citizens, openDemocracy, and David Davis MP.

The group sent a legal letter to the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS Digital, warning that unless the government pause the GP data extraction, and seek meaningful patient consent, they would seek an injunction to halt the scheme. The government has now delayed the scheme until 1st September for further talks.

The option to take legal action remains, as rushing this major change through with no transparency or debate would violate patient trust, and doing so without patient consent is unlawful.


Upcoming NPC 2021 Annual Convention webinars are:

June 18 - 10:30 - 12:30

State Pension Inequality & Pensioner Poverty


  • Daniela Jenkins, Pensions Advisory Group, Women’s Budget Group,

  • Jack Jones, Pensions Officer, TUC.

  • Bob Pinkerton, Pensions expert, NPC.

June 21 - 14:00 - 16:00

Who Cares? The Future of Health and Care


  • Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Prof. Epidemiology & Public Health, UCL .

  • Tracey Jarrett, Lewisham Pensioners Forum.

  • Cat Hobbs, Founder, We Own It.

June 29 - 10:30 - 12:00

Generations United: Bridging the Age Gap


  • Denise Burke, Director, United for all Ages.

  • Judith Ish-Horowicz MBE, Founder Apples & Honey Nightingale Nursery for Toddlers and Older People.

  • James Lynch, Young RMT activist who supports intergenerational initiatives.

  • Joy France, Pensioner Poet & ‘Battle Rapper.’



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