NHS picks Wagtail CMS to power the next generation of its online services

The NHS Digital team is on a mission to overhaul www.nhs.uk and they need a content management system (CMS) equal to the task. Enter Wagtail.  

Built on the popular Django framework, Wagtail has been lauded by developers and content editors alike for its usability and elegance. A growing number of organisations in the healthcare sector are choosing to use it, both within the NHS and worldwide.

Wagtail NHS

The NHS picks Wagtail CMS to power next generation of its online services

The NHS Digital team sought a flexible, scalable, affordable and well-designed CMS to power the next iteration of the popular NHS Choices site. With over 45 million visits each month, addressing user needs is vital, and the team went into considerable detail when evaluating CMS options – from how to display sensitive imagery most sympathetically to how best to organise and present complex information.

Because Wagtail is free, easy to customise and quick to implement, it's also a cost-saving mechanism, allowing the team to focus resources where they’re most needed.

“As we progress the transformation of NHS.UK, the content management system we use is a really important factor for our success. We looked at a number of CMS options over an extended period, and Wagtail was a good fit for our needs. One thing we particularly liked was the vibrant and responsive open source community and we look forward to making our contributions to that.”

– Andy Callow, Head of Technology Delivery, NHS.UK

Another crucial consideration for the NHS Digital team was the editor experience. With a large team of content editors and product managers responsible for keeping critical information up to date and adhering to important authoring and sign-off processes, they’re keen to make the experience as smooth as possible for everyone.

Wagtail is designed to elevate the task of managing website content from chore to pleasure. The system offers an intuitive interface where content can be created and structured without fuss or stress. It also scales for extremely high volumes of traffic and content.

In other words, it’s a perfect match for the NHS Digital team’s complex project.

Wagtail was first developed by Torchbox as a bespoke CMS for the Royal College of Art. The system was such a hit that Torchbox, whose mission is to create websites and applications for people trying to make the world a better place, went on to launch Wagtail as an open source project in 2014.

Since then, an impressive list of companies and institutions have built websites on Wagtail – including Google, NASA, MIT, Honda, USA.gov, Macmillan, Red Cross, Oxfam, Hillary Clinton and Amnesty International. Torchbox continues to offer a range of commercial services for the Wagtail community, from designing and building new sites to ongoing support and hosting.

“The first hints that NHS.UK were adopting Wagtail came from a cryptic tweet and an intriguing Github project. We’re very proud that our CMS will run one of the UK’s most important websites, and we’re delighted to be working with the expert team at NHS Digital.”

– Tom Dyson, Technical Director, Torchbox

P.S. Curious about the name? Wagtails are pretty little birds in the Motacillidae family. From spring to autumn they gather on the lawns outside Torchbox’s offices. A content management system may seem a million miles away from the pleasures of the natural world, but the name is a nod to the importance of bringing a bit of light and delight to the working day, whether it comes in the form of birdsong or code.

Will Heinemann

Will HeinemannDigital Consultant