Short weeknote: 12 to 16 December 2022

View of a Gothic Library interior with wooden card index cases. in the foreground a wooden bar with hand-lettered words 'FOR READERS ONLY' highlighted in gold
A nostalgic visit to the John Rylands Library, Manchester

Only 3 days in work this week because I took 2 days off to celebrate my oldest son’s graduation for his Master’s degree. Boy #1 got a distinction to add to his first class Classics BA. Something, something, social mobility – he is the third generation of Manchester graduates in the family. We took him out for a nice Japanese meal, stayed overnight in a posh hotel, and visited the historic John Rylands Library, where I researched for my own degree a very long time ago.

In work, the reorg planning rumbled on. With support from Kathryn and Marie, I ran a virtual drop-in session for staff on how the Product Directorate will work with other parts of the new NHS England. I was able to share some principles about how we work, but so much more will come down to the culture we create together. Looking at the Mural board from the session, I can see that colleagues hope to be able to work in the open, around shared priorities with other teams. They fear that nothing will change from the commissioner/supplier split that became entrenched along the old organisational boundaries. We are designing our new structures in the expectation of whole system collaboration, and owe it to our people to make that a reality.

Members of my NHS England digital urgent and emergency care (UEC) team had a fun but virtual Christmas gathering, as a substitute for an in-person team dinner which has moved to January because of the rail strike.

I also took part in a couple of short notice meetings about a new set of priorities emerging for our national digital channels. I’m keen for the digital UEC teams to contribute to this, and to use the opportunity to improve patient experiences of triage and navigation to the right care for them, whether that’s primary care or UEC. Recent research with patients has highlighted that the public do not recognise the NHS-driven boundaries of services that may be in or out of UEC. Frontline staff can somewhat mask the differences in face-to-face care settings and over the phone. But commissioning boundaries become a vivid demonstration of Conway’s Law when exposed without human assistance through the NHS App and website.

In other news, Leeds & Yorkshire Housing Association (LYHA) merged this week with York Housing Association to become 54North Homes, a subsidiary of Karbon Homes. For the past couple of years it’s been my privilege to be a non-exec director at LYHA, and I’m pleased to continue as a board member of 54North. Times are tough for many social housing customers, and this merger will enable us to offer them more services and support.

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