https://digitalhealth.blog.gov.uk/2015/10/09/service-assessments/

Making sense of service assessments

Vintage picture for chilli powder.
“Service assessments are a bit like tasting the seasoning of food when it’s cooking, rather than apologising when it’s on the guest’s plate." - Gordon Fram, DH digital assurance.

We’ve now included service assessments in the DH digital spend control processes, which means you will need a service assessment if you are developing a new or improved digital service.

What are service assessments?

Service assessments are a process to ensure services have been developed in line with digital best practice. Project teams present to a panel comprised of digital specialists who assess the service against the government digital-by-default standard. It sounds scary, but the process is meant to be as much about learning and improving as about a pass or not pass.

To quote my colleague Gordon Fram who assures digital projects for DH: “Service assessments are a bit like tasting the seasoning of food when it’s cooking, rather than apologising when it’s on the guest’s plate. For digital projects the test is whether they are meeting the 18 points in the digital-by-default service standard.”

Service assessments are mandatory and were originally carried out by the Government Digital Service (GDS) for high-volume services only.  We are now required to apply them to all transactional services regardless of volume.

How does this work?

There are 2 types of assessments based on how many transactions your service processes or is likely to process:

  • More than 100k transactions per year will be a GDS-led assessment.
  • Less than 100k transactions per year will be a DH-led assessment (self-certification assessments).

We have published guidance on how we’ll be carrying out self-certification assessments. In the spirit of ‘agile’, we’ll improve this process as we go.

Assessments are done at the end of each development cycle stage: alpha, beta or live. This means that the findings from the assessments can be used to improve the next development stage, identifying errors before they either become real problems or lead to failures in the live service.

Why are they useful?

Service assessments are not a substitute for approvals but they do have the following benefits. They provide an objective view of the project and its outcomes as the assessment is led by a panel of independent assessors. Teams that have been through an assessment learn from the experience. Some have changed the services just as a result of preparing for an assessment. Others have found it’s an opportunity to target capability gaps.

We will keep you in the loop on our assessments with guest blog posts from digital colleagues across the health system on their experience of a service assessment. You can read some example reports from assessments carried out within health already on blood donation, the DH intranet and e-referrals.

If you think you need a service assessment (whether GDS or DH-led) please contact the DH digital assurance team.

Bon appetit!

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