Weeknote: 13 to 17 January 2020

Andrew Greenway, product manager for the original government service manual and standard, points approvingly at the NHS digital service manual

How did I uphold the NHS Constitution?

“view the services you provide from the standpoint of a patient” – Staff responsibilities in the NHS Constitution for England

  • I topped up my 2 hours every 6 weeks of exposure to primary user research by listening in on some calls with patients about their experiences of getting referred, making and managing appointments. There’s no substitute for listening to patients talking about their experiences in their own words. If we don’t, we end up making faulty assumptions based on our own experiences, or on what might work most conveniently for the system.
  • Depending on their condition and what else is going on for them in life, people make different trade-offs between how urgently they want to be seen, how far they can travel, and whether it’s a particular care professional that they need to see.
  • One phrase in particular struck me, when a participant said he thought the current system was “patient-driven” – but not in a good way. He meant we were offloading the burden of administration onto people who are not best-placed to make decisions.
  • A common theme in our user research is that people forgive the NHS a lot of inconvenience because of the quality of clinical care they receive, and what they’ve heard about our resources. They have the highest trust in our staff, but also the lowest expectations of NHS admin. It’s down to those of us who work in the system to hold ourselves to account for the quality of the whole service, clinical and non-clinical, even when many people say that they’re satisfied with it.

What inspired me this week?

  • I spent Wednesday afternoon with the brilliant Topol Digital Fellows. Their show-and-tells were first class and showed the value in the programme’s model of freeing up digitally-minded health professionals to spend time working on projects in their own organisations and beyond. Also lovely to see Andrew and Jamie from Public Digital telling the story of public sector digital transformation, and sharing lessons that the fellows can put into practice in their own projects.
  • At the same event, Rochelle, our head of user research, told the story of the new national work on screening services. It’s great to see this team growing and making an unloved corner of our NHS IT infrastructure fit for the 2020s.
  • With our user-centred design leaders and the graduate trainees who work with the central team, we did a “manual for me” session, in which everyone shared their preferences for how they like to work. We borrowed the format from this brilliant write-up by Cassie Robinson.
  • Tero published a blog post about the user-centred design training that he and Rochelle have developed. The many responses to the post from people wanting to get onto the training were also inspiring.

What feedback did I give?

  • I talked with a senior colleague about transparency in work, and how to think about it as a team quality, not an admin overhead or a means of hierarchical control by line managers. If colleagues know what you’re working on, they can come forward and help you. If you keep it to yourself, you’re on your own! There are lots of ways of doing this, and everyone needs to find a way that works for them.

What connections did I make?

  • Matt, our new Communications Director, spent some time with my team and me at Bridgewater Place. We showed him some of the work the teams are doing here, and talked about ways to help him with the digital services that are within his directorate’s scope.
  • Thursday was a meeting of NHS Digital’s senior leadership community, always a good time to catch up with colleagues I don’t see very often, and understand what’s going on for them.

What leadership teamwork did I see?

  • The executive management team at the senior leadership community event. Sarah, our CEO, talked about trust, how we earn it and how we keep it. It’s no coincidence that “design for trust” is one of our NHS digital design principles.
  • Product and delivery managers from three of our teams enthusiastically got behind the idea of a cross-team show and tell. We’re doing the first one next week.
  • I’m working with colleagues who sometimes see things differently on setting up a new piece of work, but I hope we’re coming across as a collaborative team.

What do I need to take care of?

  • There are various things to do as part of our corporate re-organisation in the coming weeks. I need to make sure we do these thoughtfully. We must consider the needs of the people in my profession, and the people who aren’t yet in it but might be in the future.
  • Ben, our new interim executive director, starts next week. I need to make sure he’s happy with the things my team and I are doing, and get to know what he wants to achieve so that we can support him.

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