By James Higgott, 27 September 2018
Developing a new care and support guide on the NHS website is enabling people to get social care information simply and quickly says James Higgott, NHS Digital social care product manager
By James Higgott, 27 September 2018
I’ve been working on a project to create a new care and support guide on the NHS website. We started in December 2017 looking to understand what social care information users of the NHS website need. Since then, we’ve interviewed people who use services, carers and professionals up and down the country. We’ve designed prototypes and tested them with real people. And we’ve used the findings from all of this to create a new care and support guide on NHS.uk. All quotes in this blog post are from members of the public we spoke to during this research.
The social care and support guide is for people who might need services, their families and carers. Health and care professionals and social care providers can refer people to the guide and reuse (syndicate) the content on their own websites instead of creating their own.
So, how have we made the information better?
“The page is quite short, bullet points. It seems easy to use.”
When people need to access care and support services they’re likely to have other things on their mind. They might be trying to arrange care for an elderly parent who has had a stroke while holding down a job and caring for their own children. Or they might not be fluent in English or confident in their reading ability. We’ve made pages on the site more concise and clearer. They’re also easier to read – we’ve checked using the SMOG (Simple Measure of Gobbledygook) readability formula.
“I think NHS continuing care would be about when you come home from hospital.”
Social care is full of terms that readers don’t immediately understand such as personal budgets, domiciliary care and NHS Continuing Healthcare. We can’t avoid these phrases entirely, but we have offered alternative explanations where we can, such as ‘paying for your own care instead of ‘self-funding’ and ‘care after illness or hospital discharge’ instead of ‘reablement’ or ‘intermediate care’.
“It's not really clear about how to get access to this equipment. It's not clear where to go next”
We’ve designed our new content with a short overview of how a service can benefit you and who it’s for, followed by a clear link to find out more or apply. The new home adaptations page is a good example of this.
We’ve made links to local councils, GOV.UK and charities – the actual organisations that people need to engage with – more prominent and obvious what they are for.
New content with clearer links, left, old content on the right.
We’ve also reduced the number of steps to get to a service. For example, we used to link to https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council for needs assessments. The steps users had to take were:
Now we link to https://www.gov.uk/apply-needs-assessment-social-services and the steps are:
“It's not clear where you are - you've got this here and that there. Where do I click now?”
Finding your way around the old care and support guide was difficult. Most people only looked at one page and left. That’s not always a bad thing. But, when it comes to social care, most people would benefit from a range of help, not just one service. If people only ever see one page, they’re probably not finding out about all of their options.
From the main care and support page you can quickly pick out the key things you might need to know or do. Or you can just explore by topics like ‘money and benefits’.
We designed and tested the new guide with more than 80 people – but we know that the real test will come once it’s been used by thousands. We’re using analytics software to understand how people use the new information and we have a user survey to gather feedback. We’ll keep testing with users and we’ll continue to make improvements based on what we see.
At this point, you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? Better content and navigation are simple improvements.”
It’s not artificial intelligence or blockchain magic, but that doesn’t mean it’s not powerful. The social care and support information on NHS.uk is visited over four million times a year and the social care system is complex. Seemingly small changes can make a big difference to people trying to get care and support. If our improvements help people understand their options and how to access services, we’ll be doing our bit in helping them stay healthy and independent for longer.
If you have any feedback or questions, or would like to receive updates on the project, please get in touch