UK Government launches National Pandemic Flu Service

The UK Government has brought forward the launch of the National Pandemic Flu Service after new Swine Flu infections have almost doubled to over 100,000 in the past week.

I thought it might be a good idea to check out the website to see how well they’re doing. I was a bit surprised to find such obvious problems:

1) Despite the media hype awaiting the launch of this site and the preparation the site’s fallen over under the strain of visitors in the first few hours:

National Pandemic Flu Servi...

2) Feedback is made a little difficult. How about a comment box? The use of a PO Box postal address is also a poor choice and reflection of a lack of appreciation of the issues of this pandemic (do you really want to encourage Swine Flu patients to be unnecessarily sending feedback letters through the national post service? What occupational health assessment has been made for the postal workers or the healthcare staff who will be receiving this mail? Why not use a comment box to make it possible for people who don’t have an email account/want to stay anonymous or just to facilitate quicker management and response to the feedback being submitted?)

National Pandemic Flu Servi...

3) Why not drop the “www.”? It’s been quite a while since online brands used the “www.” when referring to their websites but this campaign not only uses the defunct “www.” in its press release/broadcast statement but it also fails to work if the user doesn’t type this unnecessary and outdated text.

Page Load Error

The managers of this project would benefit from learning about the “No-www” initiative to make all websites accessible from both the http://www.example.com and example.com forms of their names. The importance of this is particularly important for providers of public Healthcare services.

4) Not only is the “W W W Dot PANDEMIC FLU Dot DIRECT Dot GOV
a rather complicated sounding URL but finding the site via google is complicated because of the competitive SEO and paid advertising of the Direct.gov.uk generic website. The BBC also seem to be promoting another spelling of the URL: www.direct.gov.uk/pandemicflu which is a confusing redirected URL where the service is duplicated and patients are given a variety of other links to content.

Solutions to this would be the use of a better URL or to just put a link within a new landing page to overlay the NHS Direct website.

It’s worth noting that the US Government has shown good practice with the use of the pandemicflu.gov URL. Why not use flu.gov.uk?

Unlike the direct link the advertised direct.gov link takes patients to the general website which features a useful looking Search tool bar. Unfortunately the use of this gives links to over 400 results of duplicated content with varying quality rather than prominent direction to a single updated portal.

Search results : Directgov ...

5) In a rather unusual and probably ill considered step NHS England has NOT been joined by their colleagues in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. The website could have used simple technology to detect the vicinity of the visitor via their IP address for this purpose. Even without this technology a landing page overlaying the NHS Direct Website could have enabled patients or “flu friends” to manually select their location.

6) I found it really confusing to read the text on the homepage…

National Pandemic Flu Service Homepage

While I can appreciate that the Scottish/Welsh/NI Patients are being directed to their own service providers (even if this is a bad idea) why are the links to these regional NHS services just the generic homepages and not specific to the Swine Flu subject?

And what use is it to tell UK patients the following:

“Swine Flu Information.

Residents of England, please go to http://www.nhs.uk or http://www.direct.gov.uk/swineflu or call the swine flu information line on 0800 1513513”

BEFORE asking them to Start the Flu Assessment tool? Doesn’t that undermine it’s usefulness in managing unnecessary calls to the inundated call centres and taking strain off NHS services?

7) Last but not least… why isn’t the webpage mobile optimised? Particularly relevant in this campaign as targets include mobile connected younger patients.

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3 Responses to UK Government launches National Pandemic Flu Service

  1. Pingback: Should GP’s be referring patients to the National Pandemic Flu Service « 3G Doctor Blog

  2. Catherine says:

    I started showing symptoms of swine flu on Sunday, which became progressively worse through the night. My boyfriend accessed the National Pandemic website that has been set up, entered my details and hey presto – it was confirmed that I had swine flu. A code was then given for collection of Tamiflu at the local pharmacy. The following day, he went to collect the Tamiflu only to be told that the Tamiflu code was incorrect. He then telephoned the helpline who could not confirm the correct code, or in fact be of any help whatsoever. The pharmacist (very kindly) stayed open late whilst they tried to sort this out. In fact, earlier in the day this had happened to someone else at the pharmacy who was able to call the helpline and obtain their code. My boyfriend left the pharmacy empty-handed. Having heard about this, I called the helpline twice to explain the situation and seek advice. They simply said they cannot re-issue another code (which is not what i was asking for). They could not verify the code I was given, or be of any help. I expressed my concern that only one dose is being allocated per person, and effectively I will be deemed as having had mine when I have not been able to collect it! I spoke to a supervisor there who could not offer any explanation and was rude in the process – not great when you feel unwell. They suggested I contact NHS direct which I duly did (with hesitation given that I know that they are swamped at the moment). Of course, NHS direct had no idea why I had been directed to them – they could not help. So I am in a losing situation. I just wanted to highlight this ridiculous situation and wondered if anyone else had experienced this incompetency? I am extremely concerned that resources are not being used effectively and luckily, I am not in a high risk group, nor do i have underlying health problems etc. I hope those at risk do not experience a similar situation to mine. Take care and get well to those affected.

  3. Pingback: Evidence: NHS Direct doesn’t understand Privacy, Social Networks or Mobile « mHealth Insight: the blog of 3G Doctor

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