New £60k scheme to improve digital access for people with learning disabilities or severe mental illness

Note: Some sections of this case study refer to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). On 1st July 2022, integrated care systems (ICSs) took over statutory commissioning responsibilities in England, and CCGs were closed down. You can learn more about integrated care systems (ICSs) here.

Case study summary

A new £60,000 scheme to help people with learning disabilities or severe mental illness access GP services digitally has been launched in South East London as a result of local health and care partners working together.


NHS South East London Integrated Care System.

What was the aim?

The aim was to improve health outcomes for clients with severe mental illness and learning disabilities through digital access.

What was the solution?

Organisations in the South East London Integrated Care System worked together to bid for the funding from ‘Digital First Primary Care’ run by NHS England and NHS Improvement. This included South East London Clinical Commissioning Group, London Borough of Bexley, Bexley Health Neighbourhood Care and the Local Voluntary Sector Council.

The funding has been used to develop a pilot working with residents with learning disabilities and severe mental illness to improve their access to healthcare. The pilot is being delivered by Mind in Bexley and Bexley Mencap.

What were the challenges?

Timescales were challenging as funding was awarded quickly and project leads had to be appointed in order to deliver the work for Mind in Bexley and Bexley Mencap. The voice of residents was crucial in designing the full project and once the leads were in-post they worked with service user groups to finalise the project and commence delivery.

What were the results?

Mind in Bexley have set up a non-clinical peer-led monthly group for clients as part of a Recovery College. This has been running since October 2021 with Annual Health Checks available. An online webinar has been held, featuring a local GP and Mental Health Lead for South East London, themed around self-care. There has been good feedback and content has been offered to GP practices to increase reach.

A webinar attendee said: “All the presenters were great, explaining in a simple and slow way so you could understand. At present I am struggling and found it very, very useful”.

A Digital Health Skills Training Network went live in November 2021 with referrals starting to come in. This is offering one on one digital training onsite and can help clients solve any number of digital challenges.

Mental Health First Aid training has been rolled out to Social Prescribers and offered to all local GPs.

Bexley Mencap are supporting people with a learning disability to plan, make and share three short films. The films are about the Learning Disability Register, Annual Health Check, and winter messaging and the importance of community pharmacy. These new resources will be available via easy read web pages currently in design. This will consolidate local easy read information and other resources available via GP websites.

Bexley Mencap are also supporting the development of easier GP websites by giving feedback on immediate changes to create greater accessibility and include a link to easy read health information. This will be tested amongst a self-selecting group of Practices with a view to mainstreaming in 2022.

A roundtable online event was held earlier in the year to map local support to people with a learning disability wanting to learn digital skills. The wider work of Bexley Mencap in the field of digital supported learning was shared with colleagues from across the area and findings from this are informing the wider work of the Bexley Digital Network.

What were the learning points?

Dr Sid Deshmukh, GP Lead for Bexley in the South East London CCG and Chair of the Bexley Borough Based Board, said: “This is a great example of how working in partnership in Bexley has enabled us to secure significant funding to really make a difference to people with learning disabilities and severe mental illness and how they access primary care”.