Wednesday 20 July 2011

NHS Web Futures - first thoughts

NHS Web Futures ‘11 was a mini event attached to the annual Building Perfect Council Websites conference, and was a rare opportunity to meet face to face with opposite numbers in NHS and other public sector organisations, share ideas and pick up some clues to future trends.

It’s hosted by Socitm (more of them later) and E-Government Bulletin (worth subscribing to this free email newsletter). Get a better idea of the scope of the event from the NHSWF11 programme and the main #bpcw11 hashtag.

I was a bit lonely on #nhswf11 – not sure what that says about the state of SM in the NHS or whether my fellow NHS attendees didn’t pick up on the official hashtag. 

I’ll expand on a couple of the individual sessions in separate posts but my top takeaways were:

  • A statistic – that only 11% of under 18s use email. How are we expecting people to communicate in future? And not just patients/citizens – thinking about internal communications, too.
  • An estimate – that NHS websites are 5 years behind local government. Are we really? I think overall we’re behind, but we have some excellent examples of good practice in transactions, content, usability, social media and other fields and we need to shout about and share them between us. 
  • A profession – in the NHS, big websites are often run by people with little or no digital experience and who are juggling several other roles, or may be outsourced and possibly neglected. Perhaps this is partly because there’s little understanding of the value of investing in a good website – do we need some role models and some concrete evidence?

Having worked in local government previously (as the content manager for a now-defunct district council, or I’d point you to their website), I’ve observed that local government web teams seem to have more internal reputation and clout (and resources) than NHS ones, but their websites are often unwieldy behemoths, as regulation requires them to provide a lot of specific information and services online. We have comparative freedom on our websites but that’s not necessarily helpful – I am starting to wonder whether we need some more structure.


  1. Hi Lizzie, great blog, and thanks for writing this up. I would have liked to have been there, but didn't realise it was happening. How did you hear about it?
    Based on the overview you provided, it sounds like the sessions made some fairly big assumptions about the state of the NHS digital estate. That said, there's no denying that it isn't perfect.
    I'd be interested to hear more about structure. Because digital is perceived to be 'easy', teams in any organisation might get carried away.

  2. Tim, send an email to asking to be added to the circulation list for details of next year's event.

  3. Tim - I first went a few years ago while when it was just for councils, and was still subscribed to some local gov enews.

    Agree about perception that it's easy. Anyone can build a website, right?