More than 36,000 people have been trained to use online health services over the past four months as part of NHS England’s Health Online Programme.

A further 66,000 have been engaged in the programme via events about staying healthy on the internet.

Last September, the Tinder Foundation won a £1m contract to train 50,000 people to use online health services by April 2014. The contract is part of NHS England’s £2m Health Online Programme which aims to train 100,000 to use online health services.

Tinder Foundation’s chief executive Helen Milner said the organisation is on schedule to deliver on the April targets and is hopeful of the contract being extended for another two years.

The training involves people using a platform called ‘learn my way’ to access a specially designed portal, which teaches them about accessing health information online, or completing an online course called ‘staying healthy with NHS Choices’.

Most are doing this on a range of devices provided at one of the foundation’s 5000 UK online centres such as libraries and community centres.

Milner said the network of online centres was already being used by people to get basic computer skills. Tinder initially believed the health training would be an add-on to this, but the foundation has discovered that teaching people about accessing health information online is a really useful way of introducing them to computers and the web.

“Everyone is interested in their health or their loved ones’ health so talking about keeping healthy is a really easy way to begin to talk about the internet,” she explained to EHI.

Tinder has also developed 15 flagship projects nationwide, aimed at engaging with ‘hard to reach’ groups and building partnerships between digital inclusion experts and health professionals.

York Street Health Practice in Leeds specialises in helping homeless people, asylum seekers and street workers. As part of the flagship project, staff have started taking tablets to where homeless people congregate and showing them how to access health information online.

“They were picked because these groups have very specific health needs and often don’t engage with health professionals until it’s a crisis,” explained Milner.

Another project at Bromley by Bow Health Centre involves GPs giving people ‘prescriptions’ to learn how to use the internet. The patient can fill their prescription in the digital online centre which is located onsite.

People engaged in the Health Online Programme are being surveyed to assess the impact of the scheme, with results expected in April or May.

Milner did not have a breakdown of demographics for people specifically trained in health online, but said that of those using the online centres, 20% are aged over 65 and 87% are ‘socially excluded’.