Interviews for the GOSH Child Health Portal 2001-2003

Roundabout, November 2001 Issue No. 18

Joint Website Launched

A two-year project to turn our joint institution’s website (www.gosh.nhs.uk) into a respected child health portal got underway with the launch of the first phase of development in September. The second phase of content development will get the site ship shape for a UK-wide publicity campaign as the hospital’s 150th birthday celebrations begin in January.

The site’s web editor, David South, has been working on the project since arriving here in June, having worked on award-winning websites for the United Nations.

“The first phase saw collaboration from staff across both institutions,” he says. “An impressive amount was done, and we have now laid the foundations for future improvements to the content on the site. I really want to offer more for children. Over three million children in the UK now surf the internet.”

The opportunity for both institutions is enormous. As the internet has evolved, it has become increasingly clear that the future of its development lies in the public sphere. US government sites now outstrip commercial operations, selling far more books than the largest online bookseller, amazon.com. Here in the UK, the http://www.ukonline.gov.uk site is working to offer one-stop access to all government services, including health care.

Unlike commercial operations, the hospital and the Institute are an unbiased resource for the public to turn to. Currently, the joint site has more than 180 factsheets for families covering tests and procedures, illnesses and diseases and operations. It also has the complete archive of Dr. Jane Collins’ Times column, with its jargon-free look at child health issues.

“This being London, we have the unique advantage of being at the centre of so many developments, and having the opportunity to communicate this through our website,” says David South.

Across the NHS the Modernisation Plan involves the largest data collection exercise in its history. More and more resources will be offered online, and the content produced by individual trusts like ours will be linked with national sites like NHS Direct.

New GOSH/ICH website

With over three million children in the UK now using the internet, and a total of 33 million UK citizens accessing it through work, school or the home, no organisation can afford not to make the most of this valuable communications tool. Estimates vary, but some put the number of health-related websites at more than 100,000. Trust is an even more important issue, as users search for accurate information. It is in this context that the new hospital and ICH website, http://www.gosh.nhs.uk, launched in September. Web editor David South puts us in the picture.

The new site reflects the hard work and collaboration of staff across both institutions, and it is hoped it will quickly make its mark as a trusted resource on complex child health issues. The site also becomes one of the most visible signs of our on-going modernisation programme, and can uniquely tie together the breadth of our work in a way that no other medium can. The site development project spans two years and will fit in with the wider move across the NHS to offer a wide range of services online.

The next phase of the site’s development is aimed at getting the site ready for a larger publicity campaign slated to coincide with the hospital’s 150th birthday celebrations with start in January. In preparation for this public launch, a number of improvements will be made to the site’s content, interactivity, platform and design. To put it simply, the site should become a critical first stop for anybody seeking our services, or wanting to learn more about the latest research and care developments in the field of complex child issues.

The joint site will also be available via Gosweb for staff in the hospital who don’t already have internet access.

As the project evolved, regular updates were communicated to colleagues and the public through the media.

“The project was instrumental in pulling together a number of key strategies (including the NHS’s Modernisation Plan, and its Information for Health Strategy), and acting as a catalyst for numerous online and offline initiatives. Critical to these strategies is the need to provide information and services online and in an accessible way. The aim has not only been about serving the specific needs of the institutions, but also to become a broader child health portal.

“The website in 2001 was an amateurish affair and a disgrace to an internationally renowned centre for paediatric treatment, training and research. Run largely from the Research Office it was focused on one particular audience, uninspiring in design, reactive in updating and made little use of the potential of the internet. We needed someone to take it forward …

David [South] was lead staff member for the website, recruiting and managing staff and suppliers, liaising with stakeholders inside and outside the organisations, planning work and seeking opportunities and partnerships. It is fair to say that the site made enormous strides under his leadership, winning a number of national and international awards, and leapfrogging to become one of the best NHS-linked sites in the UK.

“A number of areas were drastically improved, including design and navigation, patient information for families, press material, and the award-winning children’s site, which is now an international project with many different partners. David [South] project managed many projects in this time including linked sites for London IDEAS Genetics Knowledge Park, and the hospital charity site …” Stephen Cox, Chief Press Officer, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust and the Institute of Child Health