NHS signs £400k deal to clear backlog of online content reviews

Online information on health conditions and treatments is supposed to be reviewed every three years

Credit: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence v3.0

The NHS has signed a six-figure deal with media firm The Economist Group to help review and update all its online content.

Newly released commercial information reveals that NHS Digital signed an initial one-year contract with the London-based publishing company on 12 September. The £400,000 deal – which can be extended for three additional terms of 12 months each – is intended to help the health service clear a backlog of regular reviews that were sidelined as a result of the attention required by Covid-related work.

All content on the NHS.UK website is supposed to be assessed at least every three years, “to ensure it is clinically and factually accurate based on the latest clinical guidance”, according to a contract award notice published by NHS Digital. This includes a huge range of individual webpages featuring guidance for the public on illnesses and other health conditions and how they can be treated, as well as guidance on healthy lifestyles.

“The NHS website includes thousands of articles on symptoms, conditions and treatments as well as hundreds of articles on healthy living. It aims to help people make good choices about their health and use of NHS health and care services,” the notice said. “The content has been created using the best available evidence and is presented in a balanced manner so that users can understand and act on it.”

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It added: “For the last 18 months, our content team has been focused on delivering Covid-19-related products and services, which has created a backlog of reviews. This has meant we have not been achieving the three-year review deadline for some topics. We recruited a supplier earlier this year to pilot a process where they would check the information presented is clinically accurate based on the latest evidence…  this pilot is now complete, and we would like to move on to the next phase of the project.”

This phase will be supported by the Economist Group, which is best known for its weekly current affairs newspaper, but also operates units dedicated to research, consultancy, and training.

The media house has previously worked with NHS Digital’s content team in support of a one-year contract focused on the “critical appraisal of the research that underpins healthcare news stories”.

As part of that engagement, experts from the company were asked to “work collaboratively with NHS Digital content staff who will edit the analysis and re-present it to the supplier to be validated as clinically and scientifically accurate, fair and balanced” – ahead of the analysis being published by the NHS tech agency.


Sam Trendall

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