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NHS: Internet

Volume 468: debated on Thursday 29 November 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what patient involvement there has been in the design of the NHS Choices website. (166372)

NHS Choices has carried out extensive engagement with patients, voluntary groups and professional bodies on the design of the NHS Choices website. This engagement is integral to the development of the site and will continue as NHS Choices evolves.

NHS Choices is a service aimed at all those interested in health information and services, including patients. An extensive programme of qualitative and quantitative user research and testing has been completed to inform the design of the service both pre and post launch. This type of research has informed, and will continue to inform, the evolution of the site's products and design.

Pre-launch (NHS Choices was launched in June 2007) a series of workshops were conducted with members of the public, general practitioners (GPs), health service workers, and voluntary and public-sector intermediaries designed to test the service vision. NHS Choices also carried out tactical ‘scorecard’ and ‘naming’ research among groups of C2DE internet users.

Post-launch, three learning forums have been used to test the live site, site propositions and design and content prototypes with groups of internet users drawn from all ages, genders and ethnic groups. Each session comprises of four groups, and lessons from these groups have been feeding into service development for subsequent releases.

A representative survey of general practices in England has also been conducted to benchmark awareness and usage of the site, provide a broad site evaluation and test various service propositions. In addition, qualitative research has been used with GPs to understand in greater detail their engagement as clinicians with the site, and again to test further developed service propositions.

To engage with national health service staff, 10 road shows have been conducted across the country. This engaged more than 500 NHS staff from trusts to primary care trust and practice managers.

Product development has also involved a high level of engagement. The site's new GP profiles are designed around a three-year research programme by Manchester university, a pilot by the National Programme for Information Technology and extensive negotiations with the British Medical Association, Royal College of the General Practitioners and other professional bodies. New services piloted across the country are also being evaluated with users, such as the qualitative research in Derby with young people to inform smoking cessation and physical health services.

Further qualitative research is planned with young mothers and with those with long-term health conditions and their carers to specifically test proposed products such as NHS LifeCheck and condition pathways. NHS Choices' customer insight team are also about to conduct an on-line survey with GPs to further test ‘score-card’ content and GP service engagement.

NHS Choices will soon be scheduling on-line surveys with public users (some with long-term health conditions) and continuing to provide qualitative or quantitative research to address product development needs. A nationwide survey of pharmacists will be conducted in the near future to benchmark their awareness and usage of the service as well as their broader evaluation of the service.

The Department is also carrying out a nationwide quantitative survey by the Central Office of Information and Market and Opinion Research International benchmarking usage awareness of the service among the public as well as health information and service behaviours via the internet.

NHS Choices has also worked with the Royal National Institute of Blind People to carry out an accessibility assessment on the site.