NHS England and DOH introduce NHS.UK Alpha

NHS England and the Department of Health (DOH) have formed a small cross-system team to advance the digital vision for NHS.UK.

According to a new NHS.UK Alpha blog post – written by Helen Rowntree, the Head of Digital Services at NHS England and Adam Bye, the Deputy Director (Digital) at the DOH – the team will include experts from their own organisations, the NHS Choices team at the Health and Social Care Information Centre, as well as people who have provided digital services in the Government Digital Service and more.

Generating change

According to the blog post, 49 per cent of UK adults access health information online and NHS Choices receives about 27 million unique visits every month. Despite this, information and services are often “not joined up” across NHS sites, therefore many services could be made better.

The last NHS patient survey found only 10.1% of patients ordering repeat prescriptions online and only 6.4% booking GP appointments. With 86% of adults using the internet, we could do a lot more to provide information and services that are simpler, clearer, better,” the post said.

The National Information Board is now “putting an improved central online offer, NHS.UK, at the heart of its plans for better patient facing services”.

The main aim for the NHS and DOH now is to provide excellent online services by designing them with the people who use them in mind.

What’s the plan?

Over the next 12 weeks, the NHS and DOH will be mapping out people’s experiences dealing with the health and care system, and speaking to front line staff about their needs. They will use this information to spot opportunities for improved information and services online, before prototyping “possible solutions”.

The new team will be forming a new plan, focussing on how they can “realise those prototypes – and the next phase of NHS.UK overall – in practice”. They’ll also set a plan on standards and guidance, to support other teams building digital services on NHS.UK.

Within the post, Rowntree and Bye point out that a 12 week project isn’t necessarily going to resolve all the digital delivery challenges facing the health and care system; it is an on-going initiative and more will be done once it has finished. They said:

This is about setting a clear vision for NHS.UK, with prototypes that demonstrate the opportunities and a plan that gets us to the next stage.  It’s also – to be frank – about increasing understanding of and confidence in a more “digital”, more agile, more user led approach in health and care.  After the 12 weeks, we will be doing more work to learn and consult.”

The new project will be communicated openly via the blog and they will be tweeting using the hashtag #NHSalpha.

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