NHS.UK - Alpha Assessment

The report from the alpha assessment of the National Health Service’s NHS.UK service on 12 April 2016.

Stage Alpha
Result Met
Service provider (National Health Service) NHS

Result of service assessment

Lead Assessor: J. Gould

After consideration, the assessment panel has concluded the NHS.UK alpha service is on track to meet the Digital Service Standard at this early stage of development.


This was an unusual assessment for the panel because we were primarily being asked to validate an approach, and a vision of what a future NHS.UK service might look like, rather than a service. Given that, we felt that the team had formed well, adopted excellent working practices, identified good pilot projects to test their approach, and are well placed to take their findings forward to the next stage.

The team have taken an exemplary approach to using technology during alpha, using the GOV.UK prototyping tools to build a variety of different prototypes to better understand user needs, prioritising features which users can see and react to, and quickly iterating based on what the team learnt from users.

The way in which user research has been integrated into the project team is extremely positive, reflected by the rigour of documenting user needs and the description of lab testing sessions being observed by up to eight team members who are all encouraged to contribute to a single Google doc that the researcher then synthesises and shares back to the team in a single playback session. We were left in little doubt that the team has established an excellent way of working together, resulting in a set of prototypes that reflect real user needs.

It’s clear that a user-centred approach to the design of the service has been adopted throughout. The team made full use of existing patterns and design assets, which allowed them to focus on the bigger design challenges.

The breadth of users involved and the variety of user research methodologies covered is impressive. The content of the prototype is well designed as a result, and the language is clear and simple, reflecting the way users talk about their condition.


Because of the unusual nature of the assessment, effectively being asked to assess building capability and approach, we wouldn’t expect to see the team return for a future assessment of what was presented to us at the alpha assessment in its current form. Instead, we would expect to be assessing the various services and platform components that will make up NHS.UK individually.

The team have already been discussing with GOV.UK Verify, GPaaS and other teams at GDS how platforms may be used during beta, but it was hard to assess due to the apparently unconstrained scope of the beta. Of particular concern for beta will be how contact details, health records and other personal information will be kept safe and secure, and users will trust their details are being kept confidential in what appears to be a broad, holistic service.

The service manager confirmed that the key period of developing the Alpha work being presented was between August - November 2015. This prompts the question, what has been happening from November until now? Although all the work presented met the required GDS standard, there is a question mark over the rigour of how the overall project scope is being managed, going into beta.

Digital Service Standard Criteria

Criteria Passed Criteria Passed
1 Yes 2 Yes
3 Yes 4 Yes
5 Yes 6 Yes
7 Yes 8 Yes
9 Yes 10 Yes
11 Yes 12 Yes
13 Yes 14 Yes
15 Yes 16 Yes
17 Yes 18 Yes
Published 23 December 2016