NHS service standard - 1. Understand users and their needs in the context of health and care

Take time to understand your users' clinical, practical and emotional needs - and their abilities - and the problem you're trying to solve for them.

Think about people's entire experience and the systems and processes around the product or service you're building.

Why it's important

Lots of products and services are not useful for users. Others are frustrating and hard to use. You need to understand your users and their needs - from their point of view - to build something that helps them.

Understanding as much of the context as possible will give you the best chance of meeting users' needs in a simple, cost effective way.

The most obvious problem is not always the one that really needs solving. Test your assumptions early and often to reduce the risk of building the wrong thing.

What you should do

If you're building a public-facing service

Your team should be able to show that you have:

  • done user research with the public, patients, their families, carers, advocates and representatives - and healthcare staff if appropriate - including in their natural environment, such as at home or in a GP surgery
  • considered your users' knowledge, skills and confidence and whether you can empower them and give them more control

If you're building services for staff

Your team should be able to show that you have:

  • done user research with all relevant user groups, including frontline and back office staff

In both cases

You should also be able to show that you:

  • have used user research, search data, analytics or other data to understand the problem you need to solve
  • have built quick, throwaway prototypes to test your hypothesis
  • your solution works well for users


GOV.UK resources

Read more about this

Help us improve this guidance

Share insights or feedback and take part in the discussion. We use GitHub as a collaboration space. All the information on it is open to the public.

If you've gone through a service assessment or peer review, we're especially interested to hear from you.

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If you have any questions, get in touch with the service manual team.

Updated: May 2022