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Creating an integration toolkit for NHS login

Rebecca Jarratt, lead delivery manager for NHS login partner onboarding, explains how the NHS login team worked with organisations to develop a self-service toolkit that supports them to adopt NHS login – while ensuring the team maintains control over the integration process.

Rebecca Jarratt

Rebecca Jarratt

NHS login is a single, secure login that enables you to swiftly access health and social care apps and websites wherever you see the NHS login button. It was first introduced with the NHS App in September 2018. Since then, more than 384,000 people have now set up an NHS login, 214,000 of which have gone on to verify their identity. These numbers are growing every day.

But NHS login is much more than the way you log in to the NHS App. It is one of the keys to changing people’s experience of digital health services: a single login that gives individuals secure access to multiple NHS digital services and helps those services to link together.

In many ways, it is similar to your Google or Apple account – and it will have the same potential to support simple and secure use of interlocking digital tools.

NHS login button

In the beginning, there were four

The challenge now is to help people who are making great digital tools to bring the benefits of NHS login to their users. Any digital health service that meets the eligibility requirements can now work towards and achieve NHS login integration. We want to integrate as many digital services as possible, as quickly as possible – but we need to do this in a safe and controlled way.

Our team has been busy building, testing and launching a process for NHS login integration that can be used by digital services. Just as you would test a new digital service with small-scale alpha and beta phases before rolling out more widely, we started by testing with a small number of collaborators.

Another key thing we all learned is that testing out NHS login user journeys in the sandpit is crucial.

We first worked with four digital services, who are now live with NHS login, to co-design a process that took developers from initial exploration of NHS login to integration in live services.

We worked closely with these initial four organisations, running weekly catch-up calls and checkpoints, but quickly learned this wouldn’t be sustainable when dealing with a large number of services – we needed to move to a more self-service approach. The first four told us that emails and phone calls on an ad hoc basis are sufficient when combined with the information that we host on GitHub and our developer chat channel Slack, so that’s our approach to communication now.

Another key thing we all learned is that testing out NHS login user journeys in the sandpit is crucial. The sandpit is a copy of our live production code environment that helps partners learn how to integrate with our service.

Initial go-live with NHS login worked well when developers explored, tested and worked through the end-to-end user journeys between their service and ours in the sandpit. When this didn’t happen, go-live was less successful. Learning from this, the new self-service model requires developers to connect and explore the NHS login journeys in the sandpit before we begin the integration process together.

And then there were nine

From this learning, we developed a self-service toolkit that developers of digital services could use to get started. We selected nine new services to test this approach to onboarding. Four months later, seven of them are now live with NHS login. We’ve had lots of useful feedback from this cohort, making us confident that the toolkit is suitable for wider use.

Everyone agreed that a benefit of the toolkit was allowing developers to set their own pace and drive their work forward themselves. This streamlines the process, frees up capacity in our team and allows us to work with several services at once while still being able to respond quickly to any challenges they faced.

Feedback from one supplier was that the NHS login integration process has a real sense of purpose and urgency on both sides, which was very gratifying. We were also told by another supplier that it’s been a breath of fresh air working in this way, and that they were pleasantly surprised at the responsiveness of the NHS login team. Needless to say, our team is very happy with how the self-service approach is working for everyone.

Open to all

We’re grateful to our pioneering digital services, who have helped us to define a way forward that will work for everyone involved in the integration process.  The next stage of bringing NHS login to more innovative health and care services is very exciting, and will ultimately help to empower people to take control of their health and care and achieve the Vision for Technology set out by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

Related subjects

  • NHS login provides patients with a simple, secure and re-usable way to access multiple digital health and care services.
  • The NHS App provides a simple and secure way for people to access a range of NHS services on their smartphone or tablet.

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Rebecca Jarratt

Rebecca is the lead delivery manager for NHS login partner onboarding at NHS Digital.

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Last edited: 12 February 2020 10:27 am