back to article Report questions millions spent on NHS.crap

An internal report into the state of NHS websites found thousands of sites that were all but impossible for the public to find, badly designed when they did find them and irrelevant to their needs. The Department of Health's digital communications review managed to find 4,121 separate websites but 1,000 were no longer …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Discernable function

    "had no discernible function for the public and the report questioned why they were even created."

    So, their saying that only websites that are useful to the public are worth creating then. So that would be why no company ever has had an intranet or an extranet???

    "The document was leaked to the Health Services Journal, but its website is subscriber-only"

    and by extension is useless to the public and should never have been created in the first place.

    I'm not condoning the waste of money, just saying that the report is a load of cobblers. I've worked on an NHS site and the middle management there were the type of people who have meetings to decide when to have meetings. They also approved the design, then when it was created (pixel perfect), changed their minds and requested a full re-design (additional cost was of no concern).

    1. Jolyon


      It's fair to assume that by 'website' they mean 'publicly accessible website' rather than something available only on N3.

      For a publicly funded organisation that has public service as its core principle it's then reasonable to assume that any expenditure that is not a business overhead should have have as an aim and a result some public utility.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It was real sites.

        Yes it was based on publically accessible websites that were designed for the public to use. Nothing to do with N3, intranets, extranets etc.

        The study involved real people and how they use the NHS sites to find relevant information

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Well, boo hoo

      "I've worked on an NHS site and"

      ... and you want your job back?

      Sorry. All gravy trains hit the buffers in the end. The £86m the NHS spent on wallies like you could have gone on much more useful things.

  2. Anonymous Coward


    ...each gov department lives in it's own little bubble, deviod of joined up thinking.

    My wife works with one councils social services, who have no way of communicating easily (aprt from phone) with another. records don't get transferred or shared. it's appaling. Don't even start me on how pathetic and piss poorly set up their remote access is.

    One Police force doesn't know another has a wanted pedo locked up (think of the children!)

    Want a challenge to see how shit they are?

    search for School term times. come up.''s+school

    Then type in your area.

    Now if it's a shit as mine. It takes you to the home pages of your county council. That's it. What is the point?

    Now search on county council home page for school holidays / school time tables and you get a load of utter crap, nothing to do with something as simple as this.

    Gov departments really need to get their back ends sorted (and kicked) sack the useless waste of seats that many employ and keep the good ones (yes they do have some great people).

  3. Michael 82

    Too many cooks

    if its anything like where I work, theres too many managers and not enough experienced web site designers actually taking the content and doing it justice, and in plenty of time being allowed. Instead of it being bloated out of proportion by different opinions and the user-centricity being forgotten.

    just dont forget the 3 click rule. But Just can all of them and start again.

    I just want 1 site and that it all doctor! Mines the white one

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Not just the cooks

      It is also their ability to turn highly usable mock-ups into unusable messes. Very rarely will you find a manager listening to the advice of a web designer and instead base their decisions on what they personally like/dislike.

      Recently I've had one where I've to remove underlines from hyperlinks and make the links the same font color as the standard text (So you can't tell what is a link and what isn't). I then had to reduce the font-size of ALL headers to match paragraph text so you can't tell what is a header and what isn't.

      It is this kind of stupidity which is rife everywhere.

      1. Charles Calthrop


        suerly you could incite the mystical wcag aconym here. My experience is that managers never know what is in them so you can use it to get your own way whenever you want. Here, though,it sounds like a case where you had to have used it, legally.

      2. vic 4

        Poor but ...

        the change would only take say 10-30 mins to do and test and the same when (hopefully) they se sense and want it correcting.

      3. Gill Bates

        when managers know best..

        I believe the management terminology for what you have just described is "can you just up it a font?"

        I got a first warning for asking my then manager what "just up it a font" actually meant, as it meant next to nothing to me. the best I could guess was that he wanted the next font in the list view of the fonts folder. I wouldn't have minded, but we were already using Vrinda - the next one is Webdings. I needed to be 100% sure.

  4. Kubla Cant

    And the information strategy review says...

    "A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said it understood the need for clear information and that an information strategy review in the autumn would set out how it intends to achieve this."

    We need to spend another £86m on decomissioning the bad sites plus £860m on creating new, good sites. The review cost £10m.

    Once we've got all this sorted out it could save up to a million pounds a year!

  5. Kevin7

    Hard just an NHS problem

    How much money is wasted on terrible web sites across the whole economy?

  6. Tigra 07

    Bargain bin designers...

    That's a pretty good deal compared to what the Government paid for just a handfull of sites.

  7. JaitcH

    There is one exception - Scottish Health

    This web site for travel health is the exception and u=is bused by travellers from many countries: < >.

  8. s. pam Silver badge

    Just a snip here and a chop there!

    Given the amount of @£$% on too many Beeb sites wasting our hard earned on far too frequent a basis it sounds like they are involved in this nonsense as well?

    Or is this a case of this years' favourite idiotic external consultants to the NHS each deploying something that not only contradicts a.n.other information dis-source?

  9. Gavin Jamie

    GP surgeries

    There are about 8000 GP surgeries in England so the number of websites seems quite low! Whilst all practices are listed on NHS Choices the amount of information that can be put on there is limited and particularly so in relation to non NHS services (unsurprisingly).

    Appointment booking and prescription requesting is limited by the availability these features on the commercial suppliers systems. GPs are wise not to attempt this themselves.

    My own site is a fairly basic Joomla site but despite some web experience the effort has seemed disporportionate. We tried advertising and using it during the whole swine flu episode but the stats suggest it is mainly frequented by Google and Yahoo.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    http: title

    It found the public wanted one primary NHS presence online

    I bet what it means is the public wanted to find information easily. The NHS is so massive, what it covers so broad that I think it inconceivable that one site could do this. I think that this would take years to scope and build and would cost ££££ as stakeholders fought over structure and content and design.

    linked data is the answer, not trying to bring everything together in one domain.

    The problem is explaining this to a manager who wants to do everything in MS Word

    1. Kubla Cant

      Broad but deep

      @AC "The NHS is so massive, what it covers so broad that I think it inconceivable that one site could do this."

      True, but a lot of the massiveness is repetition. An NHS web presence will encompass a huge range of functions, but most of those functions are duplicated. All the hospitals in the country mostly do the same thing in the same way, and people mostly want the same things from their web sites. This is even more the case with GPs. The potential for economies of scale is colossal.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re broad by deep

        most people want the same thing, information. which is why linked data will help solve this problem as it will give them it. Public and Clinical Care is far too broad a setting to be sated in a single domain.

        The nhs is not just hospitals, it has a huge range of settings, across public and clinical health. Take a concept like smoking - people want information on this in a myriad of public health settings and the same number again in clinical settings. Add in resource types -do you want 1000 types of diagnosis, care, appointments, league tables, guidance, contact details, events, jobs, evidence, drug information, treatment info for the 100s of things somking is a cause of, organisational structure type info etc etc x 100 for a concept like a single hospital then add that for as many organisational entities that there are in the nhs and it is just not feasible. Then you have audience, the people that supposedly want the same thing. Are you one of about a hundred types of 'people' ; a nurse, a student, a relative, a in patient, out patient, a doctor, a researcher, someone who thinks they're sick?

        Then you want different information from the rest of the potential audience. People want one thing; information. The concepts relating to that info are so broad that it is not feasible to have it all at

        That's not to say I agree with loads of the sites / approaches we use atm

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Sounds like you're trying to create yourself work.

          "Add in resource types -do you want 1000 types of diagnosis, care, appointments, league tables, guidance, contact details, events, jobs, evidence, drug information, treatment info for the 100s of things somking is a cause of..."

          No, one site will do.

          "Are you one of about a hundred types of 'people' ; a nurse, a student, a relative, a in patient, out patient, a doctor, a researcher, someone who thinks they're sick?"

          No, one site will do.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            no i am trying to have less work. working on an information model for a single nhs site would be an utter nightmare

    2. TIMMEH

      One primary NHS Presence?

      I don't know about a single website, but I think that there desperately needs to be greater uniformity to the websites we have. There are thousands of sites out there, all with wildly different layouts and content, of variable (and questionable) quality.

      I think a lot of people perceive the NHS as a single organisation and as such, there should be a basic template that all these websites follow. There should also be a list of information that the site is required to display, whatever else they want to put on there.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Local direct gov


    Ahh, local direct gov. What a waste of time. Deep linking from into LA's websites.

    That isn't a support and maintenance nightmare, oh no.

    They still went ahead with it. Nothing to do with the not-lamented ODPM and its bullying Minister. Oh no.

    These guys do not, and will never, understand how the web is meant to work, and will continue trying to push structured information approaches onto what is unstructured by design. Big Brother and John Prescott (and his self-job-preserving minions) know best.....

  12. TIMMEH


    what, you mean accessible, informative and well designed public websites such as this?

    I can't believe someone thought this was of acceptable quality to be a point of contact for the public.

    1. sjc

      TIMMEH - nhs.crap

      TIMMEH it's obvious that you have not looked at many NHS sites - the one you happen to pick on is actually very good. It's attractive, well laid out and it seems easy to find all the resourses I'd expect to see on a trust site.

      What's your problem?

      1. TIMMEH


        Personally I find the layout to be rather cluttered and it leaves something to be desired aesthetically, although that could be due to having to use ie6. I've heard plenty of complaining from staff about not being able to find things too.

        I'll concede there are worse examples out there but I just don't like it, so there.

      2. Kevin 43


        ... it doesn't have enough Web2.0 ?

  13. DominicT

    GPs != NHS

    GP surgery sites are not 'the NHS'. GPs effectively run private businesses that have contracts with the NHS - their Web sites are not run by the NHS at all.

    PCTs are the NHS. Their sites tend to be quite good. One can only imagine what it will be like when our current 'enlightened' government of privatisation weenies scrap them all and let the GPs run things. What would have been a single PCT site to cover a large area will become dozens of smaller ones, all different to each other. In short, things are being set-up to be a lot worse, and a lot more expensive.

    1. David Beck

      Why would a PCT have a public website?

      Since PCTs are a layer of management not a public service why would the public be interested in what a PCT has to say. I know I'm not.

      On the other hand a GP surgery is something I deal with on a regular basis and since there are thousands of surgeries there are, or should be, thousands of contact points. Are you suggesting that I ring the local surgery through some central number rather than just ringing the surgery? We all know how well this sort of "service" works, just call your bank to find out.

      My local surgery has a website, does booking and repeat prescriptions via it and shows the actual hours of operation. The last thing I want to see is some "official" twat interfering.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Not a surprise then

    >all but impossible for the public to find, badly designed when they did find them and irrelevant to their needs

    Smells of EDS and IBM to me. Apologies if that's a miscast stone, but almost every site I've used that they've been involved in made me want to hurl my mouse through the screen. The only thing I've found worse than their websites is their software...

  15. Anonymous Coward

    re: nhs.crap

    Actually Timmeh, that one's not too bad, although it looks a bit like they're trying to pretend it's a friendly blog, when actually something a bit more structured would work better.

    This one caught my eye (and made it water), what were they thinking??? The links on the menu veer from user-oriented to management-focused, and the ordering is seemingly random, the menu items apparently deliberately overlap each other, several of the A-Z of services pages (things the patient might actually want to look at!) are just blank. The colour scheme looks like it was designed by someone used to looking out at the world from the inside of a fish tank, and the top of the page looks like it's been lopped off by a low-flying helicopter.

  16. Passing Through
    Thumb Down


    Slightly off topic,nice simple flow chart on the Equality and Diversity page, all it tells me is that they spend a lot of time and money on stuff that is at best peripheral to medicine.

  17. Displacement Activity


    "Report questions millions spent on NHS.crap". What bollocks. The report (/article?) fails to mention something rather fundamental: GP websites are self-funded. Plus, GP sites generally have nothing specific to say, and are frequently (normally?) bought-in pre-assembled from specialist vendors. In the case of my local surgery the site was paid for by a patient donation.

    Did the taxpayer pay for this report? Why? PCTs are full of the most amazing waste, and anyone who's ever been to a PCT meeting (I go to a few) could have pointed out, for free, far more fundamental problems than a few crap websites.

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