Websites for GP Practices in Hounslow and West London

New websites for West London CCG & Hounslow

CCG Project Analyst Nick Hill and Silicon Practice’s Senior Developer Abby Hewlett discuss the behind-the-scenes research, project methodology, and the CCGs’ reasons for committing to such a huge venture.

How did the CCGs fund such a large project, and why was it necessary in the first place?
Nick: The funding came via the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund, and as for ‘why’, we’ll have to scroll back to October last year. I was concerned about the lack of IT capability within the CCGs’ areas. I’d noticed that most of our Practices’ websites appeared to be quite old, and definitely weren’t able to do much for either them or their patients.

I wanted to know what the standard was; whether some GPs needed new sites and if so, what percentage.

So I did an audit of all the Practices – 280 in all. It took 3 months and I looked at areas such as: how quickly one could find their website; what functionality the sites had – for example, could patients book an appointment online, or request a repeat ‘script? Also I looked to see what information the sites gave – both in terms of useful self-help information and also in terms of the Patient Charter i.e. were they displaying the articles which they’re supposed to?

What were the results?
I was shocked. Over 50% of them were sub-standard; little more than a page giving a telephone number. Worse still, 30% didn’t even have a website!

So what was the next step?
Well there was no denying that we needed to modernise across-the-board. We needed jargon-free; easy-to-understand and navigate websites which could be quickly found by existing and new patients.

So the next step was finding someone who could provide all of that, as well as extract the Surgeries’ information from each individual Practice Manager.

What was the CCGs’ vision for these websites? 
It’s all about the patient. Our ultimate aim is for every Practice to have a website which is so patient-friendly they don’t need to phone in or go into the surgery unless it’s very important.

Why did you choose Silicon Practice?
A former colleague in Central London CCG pointed me to Silicon Practice because two of their practices had a Silicon Practice website.

After looking at their websites for myself and discussing our requirements with Jane Oddy, I was confident that Silicon Practice would be the best route. Initially I’d been thinking along the lines of an off-the-shelf generic template, but Silicon Practice’s websites aren’t as costly as one might think, and they have a tremendous amount of functionality.

Their websites ticked all the boxes. They’re search engine optimised so that people can find them quickly; they’re mobile and tablet friendly; they’re easy to use and best of all, they’re digitally ‘tooled up’ – they work in a way which helps both the patient and the practice. By encouraging patients to use online services, they save the practice an awful lot of time and admin.

How did you physically go about producing 35 new websites?
Abby: The first step was to create a pilot site, and from that, a template. It’s modular in design, therefore easy to replicate. Plus it gives a cross-board uniformity which underpins the CCG identity, whilst still allowing for visual and textual individualisation. It’s basically conformity which accommodates each Practice’s individuality.

How did you achieve a uniqueness for each Practice?
Nick: Silicon Practice provided template text which Practices could either use as-is or customise if they wanted to. This was very helpful, as it removes a massive onus from the Practice and makes life much easier for them!

Similarly, Silicon Practice supplied each Practice with a photo library containing shots from their local area. They’re free to choose whichever pictures they want, but whatever they pick will be relevant and reflect their community.

How did you know what information to put on each website?
Abby: We produced a very simple document for the Practice Managers to fill-in. It’s in a tabular, ‘tick-box’ format and so very quick for them to complete.

A CCG communications team member sent the document to the managers, explaining the necessity and benefits of the project. I then chase them up and get it all uploaded.

It’s more a case of working alongside them; making sure I’m there to help.

How do you keep on top of it?
I’ve developed a Project Management spreadsheet which enables me to keep track of what needs doing by or for whom, and when.

I’ve made sure that it contains ‘human notes’ – for example, some Practices are currently having CQC visits, and some managers are on holiday.

What stage is the project currently at?
Of the 21 sites in West London who are going ahead, 13 have been developed with 11 sites live. Similarly, out of the 14 Hounslow  – four are now live and several are in preview.

So when will all the sites be up and running?
Once the CQC visits are over, they’re going to topple like dominoes! Certainly my aim is to get 2 sites a week live.

How did you find working with Silicon Practice?
Nick: It’s been a great working experience. They’re a good team. I’m actually quite sad to be leaving this project, but I know it’ll be in good hands, and I’m sure I’ll be checking in every now and then!
If you’d like to know more about setting up multiple GP websites within a federation or CCG please give Jane Oddy a call on 01793 710500 or email