Weeknote: 1 to 4 June 2021

Paper reads "Appointment 2 - 2nd dose Site location Elland Road..." Behind it, Leeds United yellow, white and blue colours painted on brick
Never been a football fan, but delighted to make a second visit to Elland Road on Monday

A 4-day working week, fully back in the world of urgent and emergency care (UEC). I’ve been at NHSX for 2 months now, and am starting to get a sense of the portfolio and how things get done around here.

Start with why

I started the week with a working session on a short presentation the team is pulling together to explain what we’re working on at a high level in digital for UEC, and how that links with the overall priorities for the sector. It can be hard for people looking at lists of product names, abbreviations and project milestones to understand why we’re focused on those particular things, what outcomes they enable, and when patients and staff will feel the benefits. Throughout the week, colleagues worked more on the slides, so it’s now pretty close to being ready for a first meeting with some very senior people in the NHS. We’ll need everyone on the team to be able to tell this story clearly and confidently in the coming months.

Show the thing

It was the Digital Transformation Directorate’s turn to host the weekly NHSX all staff stand-up on Wednesday. I had prepared for a 5 minute slot, but just an hour or so before the session, the other main presenter had to drop out, leaving us up to 30 minutes to fill instead of the 5 I had planned. What happened next is one of those things that really shows what a team can do. I sent a quick email to the whole digital UEC team (about a dozen people in all) titled “Last minute product demo opportunity”. Knowing we didn’t have time to make any slides, I asked “Is anyone up for actually demonstrating one of our live services instead?” Anoop stepped in with a brilliant demo of the NHS Service Finder, which gives health and care professionals real-time information so they can signpost patients to available services. His demo gave credit to the delivery team who run the service in NHS Digital, and generated lots of questions from NHSX colleagues. Jacqui also gave a verbal update on the patient and public involvement group she looks after, which is part of our governance for digital in UEC. I was proud of what the team was able to do with so little notice, and afterwards we talked about scheduling in more live demos. Slides have their place, but sometimes it’s much better to Show The Thing.

2 months in

Late on Thursday afternoon, I put away my laptop and broke out a fresh pack of sticky notes. I know it’s a cliche. One of my new colleagues even had the cheek to ask me if the sticky notes behind me on a video call were real, or just a background for decoration. But here’s the thing: I find the little coloured rectangle of paper is the perfectly adapted tool for getting things out of my head and into a space where I can structure them and see the less obvious themes and relationships between things. This is what my home-working desk looked like by the end of Thursday…

Desk with computer wires pushed aside and around 50 orange sticky notes in layers across it

On Friday morning I took a fresh look and organised my thoughts onto the wall…

Wall with the same orange sticky notes spread across, additional blue sticky notes overlaid

It didn’t take long to write all this up into a short Google Doc which I shared with a few colleagues for feedback. I feel like things are falling into place for me now, and I can see what we need to do in digital UEC, how we fit into the Digital Transformation directorate, and how we can work with colleagues in the other national organisations. More to follow shortly on those topics.

In other news

I had a couple of introductory calls with our newest team members, and also met Dan, NHSX’s behavioural insights expert. Having speciailists like Dan close to the digital UEC team can really enrich the work we do, and help us deliver value-based, patient-centred digital services.

Applications closed on Monday for the Head of Transformation Strategy role in digital UEC, so I spent quite a lot of the week reviewing anonymised applications and scoring against essential criteria for the role. There were many strong candidates, and when I met with the other shortlister on Friday, we had a tough decision to make about how many could go forward to the next stage. Good luck if you’ve applied, you should hear something soon.

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