The national portal for local government and related public services
on digital interactive TV and mobile phones ... widening reach, broadening choice

Monday, September 28, 2015

My Health Tools Launches in West Yorkshire to Digitally Support People with Long-Term Conditions & Enable Self-Care

Today sees the public launch of My Health Tools, a digital self-care technology for people diagnosed with a range of long-term conditions (LTCs) across Kirklees, West Yorkshire.

With 1 in 4 adults suffering from at least one LTC in the Kirklees area, the Public Health team needed a radical but realistic solution to help both patients and practitioners.

Kirklees Council Public Health team in partnership with LookingLocal has worked together with CCG partners (NHS North Kirklees CCG & NHS Greater Huddersfield CCG), people with LTCs and other local health organisations to design My Health Tools, enabling users to self-assess, self-manage and self-monitor their long-term conditions for the first time.

Sarah Muckle, Kirklees Council Acting Director of Public Health says, At Kirklees we are really excited about My Health Tools and working with our residents in a different way, supporting them to make more informed choices about their own health.  Research has shown that self-management of care works; and with My Health Tools users can draw on a wide range of support and advice whenever they need it, 24-hours a day.”

Developed and managed by LookingLocal, the solution focuses on Pain, Anxiety and Breathing Problems, as they dissect so many medical conditions. Tools, resources and knowledge from a range of accredited sources, assists the user to develop self-care skills, as well as being able to access peer support through local and social networks.

My Health Tools is underpinned by a bio-psychosocial model in evaluating and identifying health  functioning and supporting positive behavioural change. Simple self-assessment tools support users to identify and prioritise their needs, challenges, long-term goals and targets to help them make informed lifestyle choices.

Users can set goals and identify the level of progress required which can be monitored over time. This clinical Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) methodology has been proven in a number of offline trials both within and beyond Kirklees, and the digital version will provide valuable data in understanding people’s ability and confidence to self-manage to support local commissioning priorities.

The cost to the NHS of long-term conditions has been headline news for some time, and the NHS’s ‘Five Year Forward View confirms the need to promote self-care to address the growing costs of LTCs:

“Long term health conditions - rather than illnesses susceptible to a one-off cure - now take 70% of the health service budget. At the same time many (but not all) people wish to be more informed and involved with their own care, challenging the traditional divide between patients and professionals, and offering opportunities for better health through increased prevention and supported self-care.”

“My Health Tools is a direct response to the challenging situation health organisations across the UK find themselves in and their need to deliver quicker, smarter care to people with long-term conditions.” says LookingLocal’s Managing Director, Guy Giles.

“By listening to people with long-term conditions first-hand and working with Kirklees’ Public Health professionals we have built a collaborative solution that is focused on helping users to self-care safely and in sight of clinical professionals, friends and family.”


Kirklees Council is making the platform available to other interested Public Health and CCG colleagues across the country. Please contact for more details.

To understand the background to My Health Tools and how and why people with LTCs can use it, see Kirklees’ My Health Tools Introduction video here on Youtube

The suite of tools My Health Tools offers includes but is not limited to:
- CBT based assessment tools
- Setting goals, targets and identifying challenges
- Personalisation
- Create a circle of support; healthcare professionals, carers, family, friends
- Trusted, relevant and personal multi-media health and care information/resources
- Journaling tools

See and use My Health Tools on any of your digital devices.

Monday, September 21, 2015

West Wakefield at the King’s Fund MCP Event

At the King’s Fund MCP (Multi-Speciality Community Providers) event last week we heard from some leaders in the field of implementing new models of care.  The sessions highlighted how great the need for change is and how urgently the country’s health services need it.  The role of IT and digital services was central in discussions on transforming care.

Chris Jones and Sarah Fatchett from West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing Ltd spoke at the conference about the changes that have been implemented in their area.  Particularly exciting was hearing about their new website, built by LookingLocal, and how its care navigation and directory features are a key part of their frontline services.  Chris pointed out that 50% of the work currently done by GPs can be done by somebody else, and in West Wakefield they are successfully channelling people to other services by using the digital site.

In the few months it has been up and running there have already been over 2,500 users.  By far the most popular page on the site is the one about the HealthPod - a giant, inflatable dome which is used as a mobile unit where different health and wellbeing services are delivered.  Bringing services into community areas is proving convenient and popular with people, enabling them to get advice without needing to make an appointment with their GP.  

Interestingly, 34% of visits to the website are outside of standard GP surgery opening hours.  There is an opportunity here to direct people to self-care and non-emergency services by making helpful and authoritative information available.  Providing online assessments and symptom checkers can help relieve some of the traffic from A&E and Walk-in Centres, where a lot people look to outside of conventional office hours.  Then linking this with what is available locally is an effective way of reducing pressure on frontline services.

What all this points to is that more and more people want to engage with health and wellbeing services at a digital level and in non-conventional ways.  Health organisations, as trusted authorities, can point people in the right direction and influence a new way of providing care.

To see the presentation given by Chris Jones and Sarah Fatchett at the event click here

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

How will the refugee crisis affect housing associations and local landlords?

It’s headline news; local authorities and housing associations across the country are now being posed with the new challenge of helping to house 5,000 refugee families over the next two years. Politics aside - the real issue is across the lack of supply in the broader affordable housing market. That said, this additional challenge might prove to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

With enormous pressure already on public housing, one of the most obvious routes to help deal with this growing demand has been to encourage private landlords and homeowners to offer up capacity. Campaigns are running up and down the country to try and persuade housing associations and councils to welcome those being resettled, and the country has seen good support. However, it’s important that we don’t bury our heads in the sand in terms of having the right tools and technologies in place to be able to manage the challenge.

Where can we find the spare capacity? Councils continue to have a patchy relationship with the private rented sector in the UK. We have been working with a range of local authorities to tackle this with the LetsHelpYou service, and with reasonable success over the last three years, we have opened up many new properties to those who would otherwise struggle to find affordable accommodation. All good, but perhaps the less explored potential lies in spare rooms that sit unoccupied across the UK.

Most people don't know about the tax break that enables them to earn income from the spare rooms that may be at their disposal. The bedroom tax has also hit many tenants and forced many to default on their rent. Maybe there is a win:win here? Opening up capacity, and potentially helping tenants pay their rent at the same time. We used funding from the Government's Homelessness Transition Fund to develop the RentARoom platform that sits alongside LetsHelpYou. Perhaps this is its moment.

What’s clear is that ‘more of the same’ isn't going to cut it. We need to think differently here.

To see LetsHelpYou in action in a location near you click one of the links below: 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Are social landlords missing an opportunity in Health and Wellbeing?

Fascinating report just published by Metropolitan. I confess, it’s the connections between housing and health that really interest me. They’ve asked their tenants some interesting questions including which area's they felt there landlords should offer support, in which care & health came out top. The connections here with both health and council partners is not news to those of us working across these sectors. Social landlords are often perfectly placed to lead on the provision of this support. We’re moving to a world where budgets for care & health sit across the boundaries of the NHS and local government – but imagine a world where social landlords could be a part of that mix?

There are models of success in this kind of partnership working all over the UK but it’s still not the norm. We’ve seen first-hand in the work that we are doing at Kirklees Council around BetterOff; it has really benefited from the close working between the council and their local housing association, along with the myriad of third sector partners around delivering welfare advice and employment. 

This report has made me think more about the work that we have been doing on MyHealthTools, our on-line tool that supports long-term health conditions, and how we need to ensure that our housing partners are squarely part of that initiative. The outcomes of that project are based on very real reductions in people requiring access to GP’s and A&E. It’s time for housing to be part of that puzzle – they could well be the biggest advocates for this technology without us realising it.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

How can technology help improve health and wellbeing?

Seeing the recent news about the impact Type 2 diabetes has, and will have, on the NHS is enough to take anyone’s post-holiday energy down a notch or two. Then when you think about looming funding cuts to all areas of public health, it’s enough to make you need another holiday.

People who work in health will be well aware of the risk factors for someone to develop Type 2 diabetes. While ethnicity and having a relative with diabetes can’t be changed, things such as getting more exercise and eating right can make a difference, which means encouraging behaviour change.

And that is really the crux of the matter - how do we stimulate behaviour change?  The first step is to change how people can find the right information at the same time as making it quick and easy; people want and need to get answers amid hectic lives.

If a service is provided by a trustable source, people will seek out, digest, and act upon information.  Whether it’s about diabetes or any other health issue, their nearest walking group or what sort of food they should eat.  Knowing that information is accurate is reassuring and helps motivate people to act.  It also means that people can get the right information and support more quickly. For example, does a person really need to see a GP for a referral to a smoking cessation service?  Probably not. Directing traffic to the right places as early as possible will not only save everyone time, but also save the frontline NHS services a lot of money.

So, how do you make finding information different, easy and fast?

  • By not needing the ‘right’ search terms
  • Using directions to make it clear what to do next
  • Being ‘clickable’ - as more people use tablets and smartphones, finding information needs to be a smooth process without the need to type
  • Being Local - make it more relevant by finding groups, events and services within a certain distance

LookingLocal is helping health organisations to change the way people can find what they need, with its online platform HealthMyself. It is flexible and can be adapted to local needs and priorities, and makes information more accessible than the traditional internet search.  It’s design needs minimal content maintenance, meaning health organisations spend less time maintaining information. A win for the patient, and a win for the public purse.

The need for that holiday feels just a little further away….

Sheena Guthrie, Self Care Hub Analyst

Monday, July 13, 2015


Our BetterOff preview last week was a great success with delegates coming to the Library of Birmingham from all parts of the country to see, hear and interact with the new benefits and employment solution that LookingLocal has developed with Kirklees Council.

Steve Langrick from Kirklees started proceedings with a background as to where the thinking behind BetterOff had come from; primarily that the council needs new ways of building and delivering services in light of financial pressures and the added opportunity that digital offers. A new Kirklees customer-service video gave a broader picture of their ‘digital first’ approach and the ability to blend a face-to-face environment with digital services.

The financial element was paramount, with a welfare advice budget of nearly £1.75m a year facing a 30% reduction rising to 50% over the next three years, some radical thinking was required to ensure that Kirklees’ benefits system could still deliver and ensure that nobody slipped through the net.

With Level 1 (‘those able to self-serve’) and Level 2 (‘those who need a degree of support’) claimants making 70% of all claims, a digital solution with embedded web-chat and a high level of guided support and associated information was seen as the right approach. During Steve’s presentation and the following questions, there was a lot of agreement in terms of the financial situation councils found themselves in, the BetterOff approach as well as the need to ensure that vulnerable people were not excluded or left behind.

LookingLocal’s Lianne Viney then took up the microphone to take delegates through an overview of the product, picking out some of the functionality particularly around bringing together benefits and employment in the same solution and the compatibility with the DWP approach and systems. Then in seven smaller table based groups, the detail of BetterOff was demonstrated, debated and discussed.

The tables covered everything from usability to how it interfaced with housing benefit, Universal Credit and DWP systems, co-dependency of forms and multiple claimants to the same benefit process, the different rates of digital access and skills that still exists, as well as ideas around the job journal and the complexity of the appeals process.

Key to the BetterOff technology is the integration with entitledto’s assessment tool, which gives claimants the capability to work through their circumstances and find out which benefits they may be able to claim. Bringing this functionality into the solution enables claimants to compare their benefit entitlement to any job they are looking at or applying for, as well as leading them to the right forms to complete.

Just after lunch entitledto’s Phil Agulnik gave a great headline summary of the Summer Budget that had just been delivered and how it affected claimants and the changes local authorities would need to make around the delivery of benefits. Then we demonstrated BetterOff’s capability to co-browse; enabling a web-chat advisor not just answer questions when they hit a problem, but to actually see their form and help them complete it in real-time. Think webchat + Google Docs for benefit forms.

The co-browsing feature opened up further debate around information providers, how third parties could deliver advice, as well as raising the bar around levels of digital completion with lower overheads.

The afternoon session carried on looking at the detail of BetterOff; varied discussions continued covering the real-life guided content written by benefit advisors supporting the range of benefit forms (all the high volume benefit forms have been developed for BetterOff with further ones to follow) to video content to help claimants. Plus a few more areas in addition to the childcare, tax credit, transport and back-to-work/interview advice were all noted and will be fed into the content development pot.

Overall the technology was rated 8/10 by delegates – which is a great start seeing as we are still in development – and the main benefits were seen to be the self-service approach, the financial savings, the plain English guidance, but - crucially for many - the bringing together of employment and benefits into one setting. Issues were also highlighted around the effort required to change existing working practices and systems, as well as claimant communication, education and digital skills.

With this added insight from 30+ local authorities, we will refine BetterOff over the summer, as deployment for Kirklees is currently scheduled for September 2015. We heartily thank all delegates for their participation, thoughts and insight, as this collaborative approach is crucial to the development process both for Kirklees and other local authorities looking to address the same issues.

Click here for more information on BetterOff or email the BetterOff team.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Partnership developing self-care tool for MSK pain

A new tool that helps people manage chronic pain brought on by musculoskeletal disorders (MSK) will draw on the expertise of an alliance of leading organisations in the field of rheumatology and arthritis care.

The Self-Care Hub is a digital platform that empowers people with long-term health issues to  self-manage their conditions and take day-to-day control of their well-being by encouraging behaviour change.

The Hub’s developer, Kirklees Council-owned LookingLocal, is partnering with the Musculoskeletal Solutions Alliance (MSA) to explore the Hub’s application for arthritis and related conditions.

The Alliance, which brings together the British Society for Rheumatology, the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and Arthritis Care, supports and advises commissioning bodies, other medical groups and service providers.

The MSA will work with LookingLocal to develop a large proportion of the Hub’s content around musculoskeletal disorders - and will also offer its expertise to any Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) that takes up the Self-Care Hub.

The Self-Care Hub has been rolled out by Kirklees Council’s Public Health Directorate, working with the Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees CCGs. It recently completed patient trials in West Yorkshire under the title, My HeathTools. Patients experiencing chronic pain, breathing problems or anxiety took part in testing the platform, and also contributed to focus groups on the user experience.

The Hub uses proven cognitive behavioural therapy techniques to help users achieve measurable goals by promoting independent decision-taking; users can also engage the support of a circle of formal and informal carers.

Several CCGs have already shown an interest in the application of the Self-Care Hub to musculo-skeletal pain management.

Phil Baker, Director of Commissioned Services at the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, is the main liaison between LookingLocal and the MSA on developing the MSK component of the Self-Care Hub. He said: “The MSA is pleased to work with Kirklees Council and LookingLocal on a solution that underpins the proactive self-management of musculoskeletal conditions. A number of CCGs are interested in the platform and we look forward to supporting them in reviewing and implementing the Self-Care Hub.”

Guy Giles, Managing Director of LookingLocal, said: “Gaining the insight and expertise of the MSA will be core to the development of the MSK component of the Self-Care Hub and is reinforcing our belief in its value as a pain management tool for people affected by arthritis and related conditions. The hub has had very positive feedback from both professionals and end-users and we look forward to seeing it bring about real improvements to the lives of this group of patients.”

Further information on the Self-Care Hub is available from Irene Zdziebko, email:  Website:

Monday, June 29, 2015

Advice platform that boosts the local economy

A new digital platform will increase the amount benefits claimants contribute to their local economy - and deliver significant savings on advice budgets for councils, housing associations and other advisory bodies.

BetterOff helps claimants maximise their income by claiming all they are entitled to - and ultimately puts them in a better position to find employment. As well as pointing claimants towards job opportunities - BetterOff highlights how much better off people would be in sustainable work.

BetterOff is a self-service digital platform, optimised for mobiles, that streamlines the process of advising and representing job-seeking benefits claimants, reducing face-to-face and telephone contact.  Its user-friendly, guided approach ensures that claim forms are completed correctly and that sanctions are effectively challenged at tribunals.  Around 70 per cent of claimants will be able to self-serve using BetterOff.  

It is being rolled out by Kirklees Council where each year around 25,000 people use services, such as the Kirklees Benefits Advice Service (KBAS) and Citizens Advice Bureaux. It is estimated that claimants could  increase their income by as much as £5,000 per annum, with an associated contribution to the regional economy. Kirklees Council will save £400,000 on this year’s benefits advice budget alone.
The system will help to boost spending in more deprived parts of the community - spending that will, for the large part, benefit the broader local economy.

The burden on other public services, charities and voluntary organisations will be reduced, and benefits claimants are also less likely to borrow money from pay-day loan companies or unregulated sources.

LookingLocal will be showcasing the product to senior advice, revenues and benefits managers at a preview event on 8th Jul, with a view to partnering with other local authorities and advice organisations to further refine the platform.
Guy Giles, Managing Director of LookingLocal, said: “It is clear that, by helping people back into work and increasing their spending power, BetterOff will improve claimants’ lives and deliver wider social and economic benefits, as well as achieving immediate savings for councils, housing providers and other support organisations that provide advice.”   

Any local authority or advisory service wishing to find out more about BetterOff should contact or call 0845 434 8540.

Hubs deliver 24-7 health and care support in Wakefield

A new generation of web-based healthcare hubs is providing patients in West Yorkshire with round-the-clock access to services and a guiding hand on where to go for support and advice – without having to see their local doctor or visit A&E.  

West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing is a group of six neighbouring GP practices, serving around 64,000 patients in West Yorkshire. Their Health & Wellbeing Hub - an online ‘directory’ of local services - is supported by the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund, the nationwide initiative aimed at improving day-to-day healthcare. Through it the organisation delivers local health, wellbeing and support information from a range of sources.
The group has just added a brand new ‘Care Navigation’ feature to the platform, specifically designed to help patients find their way around the local healthcare system and locate the most appropriate service for their needs.
A ‘triage’ feature gives pointers on where to seek help, depending on the urgency of their situation and - by integrating with recognised sites, like NHS Choices and Patient Opinion - gives patients the best possible advice on where to go.  It also pulls in other relevant content from social media sites such as Facebook, Yelp and Meetup, and makes patients aware of other informal sources of support and social activities that could help with their general well-being, from bereavement groups to book clubs.
Meanwhile a range of online tools can help patients, for example, check their own symptoms, plan healthy diets, boost their fitness, quit smoking and understand their own body mass index. They can also use the hub to access SystmOnline, which lets them book appointments at their own GP surgery and safely request prescriptions over the internet.
Representatives from all six of West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing’s practices, spread across Chapelthorpe, Horbury, Lupset, Middlestown and Ossett, were involved in developing this Care Navigation service – together with Nova (a support agency for voluntary groups in Wakefield), members of the Senior Citizens Support Group and South West Yorkshire NHS Partnership Foundation Trust.
Alongside this new online resource, West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing has developed a network of more than 70 ‘Care Navigators’ –  staff from the GP practices and volunteers from the community - who have been trained to guide patients to the support they need.  This includes directing patients to their local pharmacy, contraception and sexual health services, physiotherapists, family support and voluntary organisations, all dependent on their individual needs.  
As well as getting patients to the care they need faster, the Hub, which is optimised for smartphones and mobile devices, shifts demand away from the frontline and frees up more GP appointments for those who really need them.  
The Hub’s original directory of local services celebrated its six-month anniversary in April, not long before the new Care Navigation facility was launched.  It has generated strong interest, and its usage continues to rise: within six months more than 1,300 different people visited the West Wakefield Hub, between them holding over 2,200 sessions on the website.  Among the most common topics users search for help with are ‘mental health’, ‘mobility’, ‘sexual health’, ‘support groups’ and ‘home care’.
Dr Chris Jones, Programme Director at West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing, said:
“Since its introduction, the West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing hub has harnessed the power of the web to add a new dimension to care and support in our catchment area.  The Care Navigation facility will shift demand away from the frontline while still providing a high quality, 24-hour service to our patients.”  
Guy Giles, Looking Local’s Managing Director, said: “With increasing pressure on frontline services, helping local health bodies deliver round-the-clock support that cuts unnecessary GP appointments and reduces the number of visits to A&E is becoming increasingly important. Building on the success of the West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing hub, we are now in a position to share this capability elsewhere in the UK focusing on local health priorities.”

West Wakefield Health & Wellbeing’s website can be found at

Health organisations can find out how LookingLocal can help build their Health &

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Self-Care Hub demonstrated at the Digital Health Congress

The King’s Fund, 16 & 17 June

Health professionals learnt more about the Self-Care Hub at this week’s Digital Health & Care Congress 2015, organised by The King’s Fund.  
The Self-Care Hub is the new online tool that empowers people with long-term health issues to self-manage their conditions.  It encourages behavioural change and supports users to achieve measurable goals. 

The theme of the congress, exploring how the innovative use of information and technology is supporting improvements in health and social care services, was a close match for the Self-Care Hub. Sheena Guthrie, Self Care Hub Analyst at Kirklees Council, was one of the workshop speakers at the event. 

Kirklees Council’s Public Health Directorate, working with the Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) has recently rolled out the Self-Care Hub under the title, MyHeath Tools. 

Underpinned by proven Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques, the new platform encourages behavioural change by supporting users to achieve measurable goals. It takes a ‘whole-person’ approach that promotes independent decision-taking – and users can also engage the support of a circle of formal and informal carers. 

The aims of the tool are to help users feel more in control of their lives; to increase their confidence in managing their condition; inspire new ideas and provide the support and skills they need.

The Hub has been created by Kirklees Council-owned technology developer, LookingLocal, working with long-term care clinicians and public health professionals.  

It had a very positive response from health professionals following a preview event in April - and from participants in patient trials and user focus groups. 

Further information on the Self-Care Hub is available from Irene Zdziebko on 0845 434 8540 or email  .

© 2010 Looking Local - Owned and managed by Kirklees Council