DoH pledges digital overhaul after NHS review slates its websites

The DoH has promised an 'information revolution' after leaked documents showed the NHS spends £86m a year on thousands of poorly designed and unhelpful websites.

The NHS Digital Communications Review showed one third of the NHS’s 4,121 websites had ‘at least one notable deficit in standards’ and 1,000 were no longer accessible, according to documents obtained by a magazine for managers the Health Service Journal and reported in The Guardian on Thursday.

The internal report, published in June, said the huge array of NHS sites ‘creates huge challenges in terms of maintaining quality, focus and relevance’.

Only half of sites gave email addresses, with the report suggesting that ‘vulnerable members of the public are often not being properly catered for’.

The DoH declined to release the full report. A spokesman said: ‘We know that information is the key to patient choice and control as well as better outcomes for patients.

‘As the recent White Paper said, the government intends to bring about an NHS information revolution to give people access to comprehensive, trustworthy and easy to understand information from a range of sources on conditions, treatments, lifestyle choices and how to look after their own and their family's health.’

GP surgery websites were outlined as some of the poorest, with ‘sparse’ offering of features and functionality. Meanwhile, PCT sites received ‘almost no recognition’ from the public.

The report also cast doubt on how online services are monitored: ‘From the limited data received, it is clear that the NHS has little in the way of central mechanisms to track the costs and usage of all NHS websites.’

The DoH said it will set out a new information strategy in the autumn.

In contrast, Healthcare Republic was shortlisted as Health Website Of The Year in the Medical Journalists' Association summer awards last month.

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