NHS.UK’s vision is to better connect people to the information and services they need.

We’ve talked before about how NHS.UK aims to provide practical, action-focused content. Where the content suggests that someone needs to access a health or care service, we want to help them find the most appropriate local service to meet their needs.

Start with user needs

We started learning more about this by looking at data, and we spent time talking with people about how they use the services at their GP surgery.

For some people, GPs are their default choice for all health issues, but we also heard stories about how people used pharmacies and walk-in centres too.

Connecting to pharmacies

On the beta stomach ache page, alongside the information which suggests speaking to a pharmacist for assistance, there’s now a link to help you find a nearby open pharmacy. We’re aiming to give people advice and guidance, part of which is helping people find services most appropriate for their needs.

There are some big challenges in doing this. When we’ve tested this simple ‘Find an open pharmacy near you’ link, people found it easy to use. But when asked whether they’d go to a pharmacy for help, many say they’d still visit their GP. How do we reassure people that it’s okay to visit a pharmacy when they’ve never even thought about going there for help before?

We’re currently testing some different wording on the pharmacy link to see what helps people best understand they can get help in this way.

Connecting people to more specific care

The NHS is made up of many different services, offered in many different types of place.

Flu jabs are a good example. Many people get a flu jab from their GP surgery, but some pharmacies and midwife services offer the flu jab too, and this may be more convenient for some people.

In the future, we hope to help people find things like flu jabs, or the emergency contraceptive pill, or many other different services. We’re working with colleagues who run the live NHS Choices site to examine the data we have on other services, and the different places they’re available.

It’s not just about helping people to find a particular type of place; our goal is to help people to find a service that’s appropriate to their needs, and convenient for them, wherever they are.

Helping the NHS

This is all focused on helping people to find the care they need, but doing this work can help the NHS with some of it’s big challenges too. Recently we saw headlines about the pressure on GP services, and how people using alternative services, like pharmacies, could help alleviate that pressure and save millions of pounds for the NHS.

We have temporarily disabled the comment functionality whilst we make some technical updates. In the meantime, we’d love to hear what you think about our work so tweet us @NHSDigital using the hashtag #NHSTransformationBlog or get in touch at england.digitalhealth@nhs.net.