Older people and those with underlying health conditions are at higher risk of being affected by Covid-19. These groups of people were already at higher risk of being socially isolated. Now, during lockdowns and ongoing restrictions, they are potentially cut off from many of the usual sources of essential support, and they are less likely to have the skills, confidence and devices to get help online.

Public sector and community groups are working hard to support more vulnerable people in society, and we know they are looking for information on how best to target that work. We are determined to put our knowledge and experience to good use, and to help provide that information.

The map below shows 6,470 GP practices in England for which data was available at the last update (October 2021). It is designed to help identify areas where there are more people who don’t tend to use digital tools and services, including those who are not active online at all. To make the map, we’ve used NHS England data on how many patients are ‘enabled’ to use Patient Online GP services, as well as data about the age profile of practices’ patient lists.


We acknowledge that registration alone does not imply confident use of online services. Equally, where people are not enabled for online GP services, this may not indicate a lack of necessary digital skills or access to devices/connectivity.

Guidance on using the map

  • Each practice is represented by a coloured circle on the map. The larger the circle, the more patients that practice has, in total.
  • The circles have a  pink  border if less than 40% of patients are enabled for an online service. We believe these practices should be a priority for targeted digital skills support, as on balance they are more likely to have patients who lack digital skills. Within this group, those with higher numbers of older patients may be further prioritised.
  • The practices with more than 40% of patients enabled for online services have a  turquoise  border.
  • Each practice is additionally colour-coded according to the proportion of people aged 65+ on its register (see map legend). For example, a  purple  fill to the circle means the practice is in the top (“oldest”) 20% of practices by age in England; a  yellow  fill means it is among the 20% with the lowest proportions of patients aged 65+. Please note, however, that due to scale these colours may only become visible when you zoom in.
  • Clicking on a practice circle should bring up a bubble with more information.

The R source code that generates the map is viewable by clicking the “Code” button, below right. All the code for this project can be found in the project repository.

The final data that is used for the GP practices information on the map can be downloaded directly in CSV format, here .

Skip to below map

The map is best viewed on larger screen sizes.
Click to launch larger version of map; this also allows fullscreen view. Press Esc key or click/tap the “X” icon to close.

Get in touch

Data alone tells us little about what action to take. Citizens Online can offer consultancy about how to support people with low or no digital skills – including remote support during conditions of lockdown, self-isolation, and physical distancing – and/or specific advice around health information and services.

We can also provide maps which compare local rather than national data, so you can assess local levels of risk. Please get in touch to find out how we can help in your area with our mapping and analysis services.

We also welcome comments and feedback about the map, and how it might be made more useful. Please email loading... or use the contact form or comments below.

Notes on our approach

We have applied weightings to the reported populations when ranking the practices. Patient numbers in older age brackets are multiplied by larger amounts in our model, because of their increased risk of digital exclusion and vulnerability to Covid-19. However, the number of patients aged 65+ reported in the pop-up data bubbles is the unweighted (actual) number.

The map uses the national ranking of each practice by age: i.e. the purple fill means it is in the top 20% in England by proportion of older patients. We can provide maps where instead the top 20% is identified within a regional or more local set of GP practices.

Of the 6,470 practices where there is Patient Online data, 3,207 (50%) have less than 40% of patients enabled for online services, and 3,245 (50%) have 40% or more of patients enabled. 40% is chosen as it is very near to the current median registration rate. The current (October 2021) overall national rate for England is 41.99% (Percentage of patients enabled for at least one online service.)

Where we refer to “online services” we mean: booking/cancelling GP appointments, ordering repeat prescriptions, and/or accessing information in personal records.

Data sources

  1. Practice name, size and location data are obtained from NHS Digital Patients Registered (November 2021).
  2. Data on availability and use of Patient Online services is from NHS Digital, latest data 2021-10-31. Unfortunately, Patient Online data was unavailable for 42 of the practices listed in (1), and these are not included on the map.
  3. Conversion from practice postcode to map location is provided by the postcodes.io service. Small amounts of ‘jitter’ have been applied to locations in order to reduce overlap, where two or more practices share a postcode.
  4. The basemap is from OpenStreetMap, with CartoDB tiles.

2 thoughts on “Age and digital exclusion risk: a map of GP surgeries in England

  1. I think your definition is a bit broad as all of these services could (and probably are) provided by phone – does this make them ‘online’?

    1. Hi Brendan, and thank you for your comment. You’re right that these services can be accessed by phone, but the data we’re using here is specifically to do with those patients who have registered to access these services online (which does not include over the phone). Of course a patient who is registered to access these services online does not necessarily then use the service in that way – they may prefer the telephone, or use a mixture of channels. In the data for each surgery on the map (when clicked on), the number of transactions in a month is provided, which gives an indication of the level of actual use of the services, not just the number of people who have registered. Hope that clarifies.

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