The month in COVID on nhs.uk: February 2022
My team and I look after the website’s COVID hub. We provide users with the information they need and we signpost them to COVID-19 services when they need them. Here’s what happened on nhs.uk in response to COVID-19 in February 2022.
The month in numbers
On average, there were about 1.1 million visits a day to the COVID hub. The most frequently viewed pages were booking a vaccination appointment, information about lateral flow tests, getting a digital COVID Pass and information about self-isolation.
Overall, there were 8.5 million journeys into 1 of the 18 services that users of the COVID hub are signposted to. That’s just over half of the number of journeys in January.
Vaccinations topic hub
I wrote in October 2021 about a plan to restructure the vaccinations topic hub, and how doing this kind of work was challenging for 2 main reasons:
- service design and user research are difficult when policy, operations and user behaviour are changing all of the time
- frequent, urgent updates meant we had to keep putting this work on hold, picking it up, putting it on hold again.
This change was finally deployed in February. It was intended to fix some structural and navigation issues that had arisen as the hub had grown organically over time. Our aims were to improve user journeys (especially those into the main ‘get a vaccine’ services) and make the hub easier to maintain.
The main changes were:
- a different design style on the top-level page of the hub — this allows us to summarise what is on each page instead of presenting a long list of page titles
- Retiring the ‘Who can get a vaccine’ page now that most people are eligible for vaccinations now.
- Replacing this with How to get a vaccine pages for 1st/2nd doses and boosters — these describe people’s choices of booking appointments, finding walk-in services or using local NHS services.
Initial results from this change are looking positive. Clickthrough rates to the NBS and Find a walk-in vaccination site services have stayed the same or increased. Exit rates on key pages have stayed the same or decreased.
End of COVID regulations
This policy shift resulted in significant changes to the self-isolation section of the COVID hub, including:
- removal of the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test
- retiring the term “self-isolation”, replacing it with new “stay at home” messaging
- end of contact tracing services
- phasing out of financial support for self-isolating.
The Testing and (what was) Self-isolation sections of the nhs.uk COVID hub are managed by a separate team based in UKHSA. This is unusual for the NHS website — almost every other part of it is managed by the NHS.UK team in NHS Digital. This arrangement was put in place in mid-2021 as a way to deal with the frequent updates to these topics — it was felt that a team based in UKHSA would be closer to policy changes and better able to update content in a timely manner.
This UKHSA team works to the same user-centred content design standards as the rest of NHS.UK. Users should not be able to notice the difference between a page managed by NHS.UK and a page managed by UKHSA. We work closely with them to coordinate work and keep each other informed of changes that affect each other’s content.
Changes to treatments
Finally in February, we updated the COVID treatments page with new treatments that had become available: Paxlovid and Remdesivir.
There was also an important change to this service. People eligible for treatments can now access these with a positive LFD test result, not just a positive PCR test result.
What we’re doing next month
I can’t share everything that we’re currently working on because some of it is sensitive, but here’s what I can tell you. We will:
- continue looking at our higher risk content, including pregnancy
- update vaccination content with details about how to access the spring booster
- move How to look after yourself at home into a new ‘self-care and treatments’ section of the COVID hub.