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Ensuring COVID-19 website content is current

Product Manager Rachel Gibson talks about how her team had to move quickly to ensure people who were manually copying coronavirus (COVID-19) content from the NHS website were getting the most up-to-date information in the swiftly evolving circumstances of the pandemic.

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Desktop screen showing yellow coronavirus banner at the top of a webpage.

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit the nation, hundreds of thousands of people have been turning to the NHS website to find out more about the virus, what the symptoms are and how to deal with the illness.

But guidance and advice changes rapidly and it takes time and resource to stay up-to-date. We also knew that people were seeking health information in many places other than the NHS website (NHS.uk).

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, we ensured that as many people as possible could find the right health information wherever they looked by syndicating NHS website content to over 2,000 users, who publish it in other websites and apps.

We want the clinically approved information on the NHS website to be disseminated as widely as possible.

We quickly realised that demand was escalating on a huge scale as coronavirus hit us, so our team decided to create a group of tools to help users to quickly and easily reuse NHS.uk coronavirus content, and keep that content automatically updated.

We want the clinically approved information on the NHS website to be disseminated as widely as possible so we have taken the step of allowing our users to bypass the usual sign-up process – although we do expect them to tell us how they are using the content.

Here is a description of those tools:

Signposting to NHS website coronavirus content
  • Coronavirus button: The coronavirus button can be embedded in web pages or apps so that users can use it to click through to coronavirus content on the NHS website. We are offering a range of different designs.
  • Coronavirus banner: A banner can be embedded in web pages or apps that links users to coronavirus content on the NHS website. The wording within the banner is updated as changes are made on the NHS website.
Reusing coronavirus content from the NHS website
  • Coronavirus widget: This is a new widget that allows a content box to be embedded in a web page or app with NHS website styles. No technical expertise is required to use the widget, which takes users step-by-step through the process of embedding its content. The box updates automatically when updates are made on the NHS website.
  • Coronavirus application programming interface (API): Where users have technical expertise, they can use the coronavirus API to consume NHS.uk coronavirus content. They can choose to consume content as whole pages or shorter ‘modules’, which have been independently clinically verified so can be used on their own. Common questions about coronavirus are also available as voice-friendly pairs of Q&As in the API.

Content accessed through the API is automatically updated when changes are made on the NHS website.

How our tools are already being used

We are collecting data on uses of the coronavirus syndication tools. Since their launch on 2 April 2020, the tools have been used on the websites of nearly 200 organisations.

Users have found the tools simple and straightforward to use, such as Wessex Voices which was formed from five local Healthwatch organisations coming together in the Hampshire and Dorset area with NHS England Wessex. This is an initiative that aims to make sure local people are involved in designing and commissioning health services and they produce resources to support that aim.

Were very happy to have official, up-to-date information on their websites, and know that the NHS widget would automatically update as the COVID-19 situation changes.

They told us that the widget "looks great on our website. It’s handy that we can adjust the size of the widget too, so it better fits with the other contents on our landing page".

Another organisation, Machew LLP, a company that specialises in managing websites including several school websites, found that their customers "were very happy to have official, up-to-date information on their websites, and know that the NHS widget would automatically update as the COVID-19 situation changes".

Mumsnet is probably one of the bigger, more well-known sites that are syndicating copy from the NHS website. It’s good to know that the information we are providing and they are using is as accurate as we can make it at any given time.

Screenshot of Mumsnet's coronavirus content

Find the coronavirus syndication tools at https://developer.api.nhs.uk/coronavirus  or contact us at syndication.service@nhs.net if you have any queries.

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Rachel Gibson

Rachel is a product manager for the NHS website.

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Last edited: 18 August 2020 2:32 pm