Weeknote: 20 to 24 February 2023

city centre buildings from left - a modern multi-storey car park clad in metal fins that are twisted to make a gothic arch pattern, a small octagonal brick building in the middle of a traffic roundabout, the end of a row of mid-20th-century brick offices, the concrete lift core of a skyscraper under construction, the edge of a glass-walled building. In the foreground a pair of railings for steps which are out of shot
View into Leeds city centre from Quarry Hill

Team get-together

A long delayed get-together for the “legacy NHS England” colleagues in my Digital Urgent and Emergency Care (UEC) team. As a geographically-dispersed team, this was the largest number of us all together in one place since I took on my current role in March 2021. Originally it was going to be a team meeting in December, followed by Christmas dinner, but with changes of date and venue, it had been delayed by a couple of months. Jacqui helpfully reminded us there are only 44 weeks until Christmas 2023!

Business cases and finance

A few of us reviewed the draft business case for re-platforming the UEC Directory of Services. This vital piece of urgent and emergency care infrastructure handles tens of millions of searches per year, enabling patients to be directed to the right care according to their needs. By moving to a more modern technology stack we’ll be able to adapt the directory more quickly to the NHS’s changing service models.

Lots of good work had gone into the business case options. My main bit of feedback to the team was to make sure we were considering a wide enough range of alternatives, including spending the money in a different way, as well as “do nothing”, “do something” and “do everything” options for the planned national platform rebuild.

We also discussed how to get financial approval for some additional work on 111 online. That will be a lesser scale of spend than re-building the directory of services, and needs to have a proportionately simpler business case process. Everyone agrees to that need for simplicity in principle, but exactly how we make it happen in the new NHS England is still being worked through.

Freedom to act

In our all staff call on Thursday, I shared the thinking behind our approach to line management for the merged product teams. We want to enable multidisciplinary teams to be accountable for the delivery of their products​, backed up by leadership and subject-matter expertise in clusters of teams. This will make for a ​flatter structure with line managers typically managing between 5 and 8 colleagues.

I talked about “freedom to act”, one of the 16 factors used to decide the banding of roles in the NHS, and how we want our teams to operate at the top of this scale. That means multidisciplinary team members co-ordinating their own work and checking the quality of team outputs​. Line managers have a specific set of responsibilities such as hiring, career development, and managing absence; we want to invest in their skills to do those things really well.

For many teams, this won’t be much different to what they do already, and for those where it is a change, I hope they’ll see it as a positive one. I know people care a lot about who their line manager is, and those who are line managers want to do their best for the people they manage.


During the week I had a couple of one-to-ones with senior colleagues from different professions, triggered by the changes we’re proposing. In communicating the changes, we talk a lot about a “product mindset”, and that can sometime come across as prioritising one job family – product management – over other roles that also make up a big part of our structure, such as user-centred design and project management.

When making changes, it can seem as if people’s past track record and achievements are not being recognised. It’s hard to get the message across within the constraints of an organisation change process, where some groups are growing and other are shrinking, but people are more than their current job title or job description.

I wanted to assure my colleagues that we’re trying to solve the same problems, share many of the same frustrations about the process, and have an opportunity, by working together, to shape the new merged organisation for the better. I’m painfully aware that we haven’t yet given everyone a reason to believe that.

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