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How we’re transforming our digital service catalogue

Thasmim Ali describes the changes we’ve made to our digital service catalogue to make it easier for our stakeholders to find out and understand what national digital services are available for NHS staff and organisations to use.

NHS England provides more than 100 national digital services for the NHS. They’re listed in the service catalogue on the NHS England Digital website.

However, after speaking with digital leaders across the system, our ‘Who Does What’ programme team identified two important problems.

The author Thasmim Ali

First, our stakeholders were unaware of the different types of digital services available to them in the NHS. We know that local NHS organisations want to know about these central services so they don't end up duplicating efforts by creating or buying something similar – but they’re not clear what’s on offer.

Second, our stakeholders didn’t understand what our national services do. The way they were being described in the catalogue wasn’t working well, leading to a lack of understanding and connection between the services offered nationally and the local healthcare bodies. This meant that stakeholders were less likely to invest in a digital service that they didn’t fully understand.

Our goal was to solve these problems by transforming the service catalogue.


Our approach

We approached this problem by talking directly to users through user research and collaborating with internal stakeholders.

This is what we’re doing:

1. Enhancing the service catalogue

Drawing inspiration from the API catalogue, we upgraded the service catalogue by incorporating tags, filters, and an in-page search function.

We did this to provide a more navigable and user-friendly experience. Finding information about the services is now easier.

2. Standardising service pages

Recognising the importance of clarity and consistency, the team introduced a standardised template for service pages. The template acts like a guide, making sure the information meets users’ needs, and keeps a clear and consistent presentation of services throughout the catalogue.

We have successfully implemented these enhancements on 24 out of 105 service pages so far, and we’re doing more every month.

3. Collaborating with service-owning teams

An important part of the service catalogue transformation has been our collaboration with service-owning teams. We worked closely to update their service pages and transition to the new standardised template, using their expertise in the service and understanding of their audience. Though it takes time and effort, this process makes sure our service descriptions are consistent and make sense to the reader.

It's worth noting that, in our ongoing work, the team recognises that the standard template may not be a one-size-fits-all solution. As we collaborate with more services, we understand that flexibility is key.

If the content doesn't align with or suit a specific audience, teams are encouraged to use the template loosely or adapt it accordingly to better meet their service's unique needs and objectives.

4. Discovery research and testing

We are conducting several types of user research to gain a full picture of the problem space. We are speaking directly to users in interviews to fully understand their goals and what is stopping them from achieving them. We have also been using tools such as surveys and heat mapping to observe how users interact with our content and what their user journey looks like.

To make sure our upgrades are solving a problem or meeting a need, we're doing real user testing. Surveys and user research help us fine-tune the catalogue based on what users want and need.

5. Working with the Digital Partnering team

We work closely with the Digital Partnering team, who help NHS digital leaders to problem-solve and introduce new centrally built digital services. They also facilitate engagement with regional trusts for beta pilots.

Acting as a vital link between us and the broader NHS, these relationship managers showcase the service catalogue to the correct audience.

The relationship managers also work closely with NHS England product teams, following a shared plan from the Digital Partnering Hub. Wider NHS organisations can see what’s on offer in this central hub to avoid buying into products that already exist. They also have the opportunity to get support from central NHS England product teams.

6. Meeting web team requirements

We collaborate closely with the web team, who oversees the NHS England Digital website where the service catalogue is hosted. When we make changes like adding new tags or filters, it can have a broader impact on the site and use up the web team's resources. So, we need to be mindful of the effects of our actions on their workload. Our objective is to fulfil their requirements and ensure that our contributions align with their strategic plans.


Outcomes so far

Measuring progress is an essential aspect of this transformative journey. Our team can now provide a tangible count of the number of service pages successfully transformed. The user research conducted by the team continues to help us shape our design approach, based on the feedback and insights gathered from our internal and external audiences.

However, the true measure of success lies in the outcomes achieved. For our service, that means reducing the time it takes for people to discover and learn about our services, and more importantly, getting our national services adopted (for free) instead of NHS organisations buying their own product.


What's next

We’re committed to improving the service based on user feedback. Right now, we're giving extra attention to continuously improving our service pages. This includes the incorporation of extra filters, such as care settings and status (for example, in development, live or retired) to further refine the user experience.

Decision makers in integrated care systems want clear information on what's coming up, what’s right for their organisations, and how the services are going to develop. We’ve got to make sure roadmaps are reliable, on track, and aligned across different services. We're asking users and service teams for their ideas on how to improve them.

In terms of new features, we are looking particularly at potential collaboration with the Digital Partnering Hub, which brings together relevant information and data together for the CIO community and programmes.  
Looking ahead, our goal is to offer reliable and user-friendly digital solutions for integrated care board decision makers, service teams and users that, ultimately, improve healthcare.



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Find national digital services and programmes to support health and social care in England.

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Last edited: 13 March 2024 10:08 am