Weeknote: 20 to 24 June 2022

Trees and gardens in front of a stone building with cylindrical tower
Visit with friends to the RHS Bridgewater garden, Salford

What did I enjoy?

A busy week, but a good one, in which I could see a number of things coming together. Barbara and Brin talked me through their plans for the digital enablers work in the Urgent and Emergency Care (UEC) Strategy, and we had a good meeting with primary care colleagues as part of that. Imogen and Pauline shared with the NHS England Digital UEC team the work they’ve been doing to visualise how our roadmap and governance support the NHS’s priorities. And on Friday I had a good one-to-one with Mark, director of primary care technology, where we talked about how things are going across our respective areas.

I also had a couple of meetings in my role outside the NHS, as a non-executive board member at Leeds and Yorkshire Housing Association (LYHA). I’m a member of the Audit and Risk Committee, and chair the IT & Digital Steering Group. In the latter meeting, it was great to hear about the progress the team has made over the past year to make it easier for customers to interact with LYHA, especially when reporting and tracking repairs, which is a big contributor to improving customer satisfaction.

What objectives did I set?

A few weeks ago, I asked colleagues for feedback on the Digital UEC senior team objectives. Out of about 40 people I invited to comment, 8 responded, and my team and I reflected on their feedback before making a few changes.

  • A number of people asked to be kept informed and involved in our team’s work, and so we’ve added an explicit objective around our communications strategy.
  • There were several comments about how we link what we’re doing to system objectives and outcomes. Since we drafted the objectives, it’s become clearer that we can do this through the vehicle of the UEC Strategy. I hope that the next time we review these objectives, we’ll be able to pull in some more explicit outcome measures arising from that strategy.
  • I have also added a reference to the new Digital Citizen Board in the NHS England Transformation Directorate.
  • A couple of stakeholders mentioned how we align work with other programmes With this in mind, I have added to the objectives that we are reviewing the membership and format of our governance forums, so that we make decisions when they’re needed, at the right level, with the right people.
  • Last but definitely not least, members of the Digital UEC team are keen to participate in the Transformation Directorate’s new approach to equality, diversity and inclusion. I’ve committed that I will ensure they are able to do this.

I really appreciated those 8 people’s help in ensuring we get our objectives right. We really will use these to steer our work and measure our progress as a senior team.

I have the objectives printed out on the wall in the corner where I work from home 2 or 3 days per week, and refer to them frequently to make sure I’m focusing on the most important things.

Text on printouts: Assure the safe and sustainable adoption, operation, and continuous improvement of national digital products and services that support the management of urgent and emergency care demand through 111 and 999. Promote a vision and programme of work for digital transformation in UEC that fulfils the UEC policy and strategic intent (led by the EEC directorate) and wider health and care digital, data, and technology policy and strategy (led by the JDPSU). Nurture a diverse and inclusive multidisciplinary team environment across Digital UEC where all colleagues have a chance to flourish and develop their careers. Build on existing user-centred design and patient and public engagement practices to make Digital UEC an exemplar of equitable co-design in health and care. Evolve governance to establish a system of joined up business planning for Digital UEC, based on an iterative dialogue that navigates between user and business needs, technology considerations, and budgetary constraints.
Objectives on the wall of my home working corner

What was hard?

There were a couple of meetings, containing quite large numbers of highly-paid, experienced people, that were not as productive as they could have been. Part of this was because the expectations of the meeting had not been clearly set out, so we spent too much time at the beginning debating why we were there. Halfway through one of those, I asked that we stop the meeting until we were clearer on the question to be answered. There’s also something about how we behave as senior leaders, especially in front of our teams who will absorb what they see and are likely to repeat the same patterns in their work when we’re not in the room.

What did I look back on?

Maybe it’s a feature of getting older, but I’ve found myself looking back at things I’ve been involved in over the years, and reflecting on what has – and has not – changed.

12 years ago this week, was the first Service Design Drinks event in Leeds, which I organised with Kathryn and Tero. That led to more formal Service Design Thinks events, and the same crew hosting Global Service Jam and Global GovJam in the city. I’m lucky to still know and work today with many of the people who came to those events.

Trilly gave a talk at the Camp Digital conference, and I was prompted to re-watch my own talk from Camp Digital 2019. It’s a curious time capsule – watching myself unaware that the COVID-19 pandemic was just months away, yet prefiguring a lot of this things we have relied on to get through it.

What do I need to take care of?

One senior colleague has been off sick, and another is leaving next week, which means we’re facing a gap in leadership for some of our teams. I have offered to help out where I can, and steps are being taken to fill the gap, at least on a temporary basis.

I’m continuing to manage my own mixed feelings about the organisation change process. I’m impatient to get on to the next stage of the changes, but also fearful about the time and energy it’s going to suck up, just when our teams have lots to do to make things better for patients and frontline staff. I feel like I’ve played a small role, over the last 5 years, in spreading digital and user-centred design skills where they need to be in the national NHS organisations, and I really want these latest changes to move us further forward towards that goal, not to take a backwards step.

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