Department of Health uses Digital Services framework to create new micro-website

The Crown Commercial Service is using the Digital Services framework (DSf) to redevelop a WordPress-based Department of Health (DH) microsite that had become unfit for purpose.


The Crown Commercial Service is using the Digital Services framework (DSf) to redevelop a WordPress-based Department of Health (DH) microsite that had become unfit for purpose.

The contract comes as ComputerworldUK revealed last week that the government has reached just 28 percent of its target to spend £40 million through the framework by August 2014.

DH did not provide a value for the four-month contract to develop a new website for its Responsibility Deal programme. Responsibility Deal is a programme where organisations of any size and from any sector can sign up to take voluntary action to improve public health.

There are currently about 690 organisations, known as partners, who are either local or national partners. With the current website, local and national partners go through different processes to sign up to the programme, choose pledges, report and publish their activity.

While organisations can register online through the existing site, only national partners have access to an online portal to manage their participation in the programme. The new website is intended to extend this capability to local partners. The processes for registering and reporting annual updates for local partners are currently managed via Google templates.

“We want the new site to host and allow interrogation of existing content. This includes all delivery plans and annual updates ever provided by partners,” the contract notice stated.

“The system currently only shows on the website the most recent partner submission, not those from previous years. Updates from year 2011-12 are hosted in an Excel format, available on the site, which would want to be migrated to the new product so that it is consistent with the most recent update.”

At present, Responsibility Deal is hosted on a single WordPress platform as a CMS with a WordPress database. It is also hosted on a WordPress infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform that has been customised too much for it to be ‘lifted and shifted’.

“Helpful Technology developed a web application in 2012 to support operation of the RD programme. DH’s assessment is the existing code would not pass a code review test because of the level of customisation.

“It is DH’s view that this means the code is not reusable and further, that WordPress is not the right solution for the Responsibility Deal needs,” the contract notice stated.

DH said that the current WordPress application is not scalable and relies heavily on third-party plugins, some of which are outdated and not easy to upgrade without full impact analysis and significant user testing. The application has been hosted by DWX Ltd since 2013, which provides “limited” technical support.

The original coder is no longer able to support the application, DH added, which has resulted in an increasingly unstable website.

The Responsibility Deal website is used by DH's RD team, members of the public, NGOs, media, as well as the partners involved in the scheme.

 DSf was set up in November last year with a goal of helping the public sector design, build and deliver digital services more easily by buying expertise such as service designers, delivery managers or agile software developers, through a single procurement framework.

The framework allows government bodies to contract with suppliers for individual roles to join their existing digital teams on site, or create entire digital teams to work on developing digital services using Agile methods.

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