NHS Wagtail Sprint

Author information: Tom Dyson , Technical Director , Post information: , 2 min read ,
Related post categories: Wagtail ,

The NHS is strongly committed to Wagtail. 90% of nhs.uk is now running on Wagtail, after what has been described as 'probably the UK government's biggest content migration'. This week we're hosting some of the team who work on this massive, important site: technical architects, tech leads, graduate developers, writers and accessibility experts are camped out in our Bristol office for an intense two days of discussion and development.

Wagtail NHS sprint - meeting room

We spent the first hour looking through NHS Digital's Trello board of discussion points and feature requests. A handful of projects quickly bubbled to the top, so we divided into informal teams and got started. Here's what we're working on:

Rethinking review

Content on NHS.uk has to be medically correct. Too much time is spent emailing Word documents around to clinicians for sign-off. Todd, Bradley, Michael and Tom are building a proof of concept which combines CFPB's wagtail-sharing library with Annotator.js for annotating and commenting on draft pages.

Content import/export

NHS content teams move large swathes of content between different instances of their site. Neal, Matthew, Eva and Yiew created wagtail-import-export, a new app which enables page export from one Wagtail instance into another, either via API or a file export.

Michael at Wagtail NHS sprint

Edit this page

The NHS's multi-instance infrastructure means that the edit bird isn't always available to editors. There are a few environments where this might be the case, e.g. if your Wagtail site generates static pages, or if you use an aggressively caching proxy. Tom built wagtail-bookmarklet, a simple app which lets editors add an 'edit this page in Wagtail' bookmarklet to their browsers.

Infrastructure tweaks

NHS.uk's Wagtail instance runs on Linux containers on Azure, backed by SQL Server, orchestrated by Rancher. Now that Azure's PostgreSQL service is out of beta it may be possible to switch database backends; Rob and Neil built a quick proof of concept to demonstrate PostgreSQL compatibility. Matt, Tom and Rob looked at slimming their production Docker images by switching to an Alpine base and removing some outdated dependencies.

Will and Anneliese at Wagtail sprint

Search improvements

We heard from the content editors about ways that Wagtail's internal search could be changed to support their daily workflow: sorting and filtering by content type and section, better use of tags in image search results. Karl worked on improvements to Wagtail's core search, which should be available soon across all search backends.


Alison from Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation joined us to share her experiences of building a different sort of complex Wagtail site, and to pick up some juicy tidbits from accessibility guru Michael. As the Wagtail project itself pushes towards better accessibility, it's really valuable for us to be able to tap into this expertise from the front line.

Wagtail beer

Coffee, bagels and beer

We were very pleased to introduce our NHS friends to the delights of Bristol's coffee, beer and food scenes. In particular, we enjoyed Allendale Brewery's delicious, award-winning Wagtail English bitter. We're looking forward to joining forces for another instalment of eating, drinking and Python, hopefully in Leeds later this year.

Author information: Tom Dyson , Technical Director , Post information: , 2 min read ,
Related post categories: Wagtail ,