Weeknote: 7 to 11 May 2018

I started writing weeknotes soon after I joined NHS Digital as head of design in June 2017. I find it a good discipline for me to reflect on my week, and to make sure I’m making progress against my own and my team’s objectives. Because groups of colleagues congregate in different virtual places, I settled on posting them simultaneously to our #design channel on Slack and an internal “blog” on Sharepoint. As an experiment, I’m posting a lightly redacted version here too. Views: my own. Publication status: experimental.


Straight back from the bank holiday weekend into NHS.UK programme show and tell day. In addition to the team’s showing their work, Marc, our head of products, gave an update from the senior leadership team. We plan to make these a regular fixture at fortnightly show and tells in future.

I joined a presentation by Helen Petrie of York University, who specialises is research with users with access needs, including older people. It gave me lots to think about. Thanks to Rochelle, Tanja, and the other user researchers for making it happen.

Dean, the lead designer on the NHS website, shared the team’s stance on accessibility with our NHS Digital Ability Network, which supports staff with disabilities, long-term conditions and carers, and got some encouraging feedback.

I also had a call with Victoria from m-Habitat and Lenny from the Helix Centre about a session we’re doing together as part of HIMSS e-Health Week.


A day in London. I had a chat with Louise, the service designer on apps & wearables. I met a service designer working in a well-respected design agency, who was interested in how we work as an in-house team.


A call with Amanda, our head of profession.

Then I headed over to the Government Digital Service event, Sprint 18, where I managed to persuade Andrew to sign my copy of the public.digital/book. My takeaways from the event:

  • Cross-government collaboration works. For example, to make their emergency travel documents service, Foreign Office reused appointment booking from Ministry of Justice, GOV.UK Pay from Government Digital Service, and photo upload from Home Office.
  • Making things simple is hard work (but worth it in the end). It took new legislation, a multidisciplinary team, with policy and digital, from two departments, co-located, to make it possible for you to ‘check your state pension’.
  • The Digital Service Standard is no more! It has been rename the Government Service Standard to reflect the fact that it’s not just digital, but a standard for the whole of government.
  • There’s lots we can do to raise awareness and build capability around accessibility: “Interest can’t be the only motivating factor, you need some goals and management support.” – James Buller, one of two access needs leads at the Home Office.

I missed the presentation of advances on the GOV.UK platform to head over to Parliament for an NHS Digital event on diversity inclusion. Nicola, who leads on Widening Digital Participation talked about her programme’s work with partners Good Things Foundation. There were also great talks by Stan, experts by experience lead at homelessness charity Pathway, and Jonny, of social enterprise charity Turning Point.


Catching up with emails, and following up on the process to bring a designer on board, having made them an offer some time ago. I followed up on the accessibility and inclusion work, including clarifying how we’re approaching the GDS consultation on accessibility of public websites and apps.

For the last couple of hours, I looked again at one of the job descriptions we’re putting through the Agenda for Change grading process. It’s a valuable exercise because it forces us to describe the work of a designer against a set of generic competencies that have to be broad enough to fit the massive range of job roles in the NHS. If we get it right, designers will get recognition for their key roles in:

  • Policy and Service Improvement – our job is to design new services, or substantially improve existing ones, on nationally important areas of health policy and performance.
  • Research and Development – we spend much of our time exploring and learning in the discovery, alpha and beta phases of service development.
  • Equality, Diversity and Rights – the designer is the primary advocate in the multidisciplinary team for the principles of inclusive design.


I wrote a blog post reflecting on the Leeds Digital Festival event I was part of a couple of weeks ago: https://blog.mattedgar.com/2018/05/13/electric-woks-or-eating-together-time-for-human-centred-designers-to-care-about-the-community/ No more electric woks!

Weeknote: 30 April to 4 May 2018

I started writing weeknotes soon after I joined NHS Digital as head of design in June 2017. I find it a good discipline for me to reflect on my week, and to make sure I’m making progress against my own and my team’s objectives. Because groups of colleagues congregate in different virtual places, I settled on posting them simultaneously to our #design channel on Slack and an internal “blog” on Sharepoint. As an experiment, I’m posting a lightly redacted version here too. Views: my own. Publication status: experimental.


Started the week with the regular programme directors’ call for the Empower the Person portfolio.

After that, I went over to NHS Digital HQ at Trevelyan Square for advice from an HR manager about my own professional development. I believe the NHS needs people-centred design leadership at director, executive board, and CEO levels, and I need to develop my own senior leadership skills if I am to be one of those future leaders. This might involve applying for one of the leadership development programmes that run across the NHS. I might also benefit from executive coaching and more senior mentorship.

1:30pm on Monday is the regular design profession office hours on Slack. I shared a draft agenda for our forthcoming design team event and encouraged people to sign up for show and tell slots.

In between time, sorting out tickets for Leeds GovJam (6-7 June). NHS Digital will be taking a block of 10 places which we plan to allocate to colleagues who would benefit from this awesome service design and design thinking experience.


I played a small part in helping the Widening Digital Participation Programme prepare for the launch of their Digital Inclusion Guide for Health and Social Care. It’s a great piece of work, full of useful advice and links, now published on our corporate website: https://digital.nhs.uk/about-nhs-digital/our-work/digital-inclusion

Another meeting with an HR manager – this time to get feedback on the new job descriptions we’re creating for designers. The goal is to have a complete set of job descriptions at a range of seniority levels. They’ll all be consistently graded using the same Agenda for Change bands as nurses, doctors, NHS managers and other professionals.

In the afternoon, it was the fortnightly design leadership meeting. We talked about the cross-government service design event that Tero is helping to organise. Also recruitment, on-boarding, accessibility, and design governance. Finally we discussed the growing number of requests for designers to help with small, short notice artwork or production jobs. Everyone wants to be helpful, but we need to make sure we have visibility of these, and be sure that they’re the best use of our designers’ much-in-demand skills.

After that, Dean, the lead designer on the NHS website, and I dialled into a briefing on the NHS.UK programme for our colleagues at the Department of Health and Social Care and the Government Digital Service (GDS).


I spent the morning and early afternoon at a network event for Health Education England’s technology enhanced learning programme, where I presented our user-centred design approach. I enjoyed hearing from online learning start-up founder, speaker, and general provocateur Donald Clark, and learning about some of HEE’s work improving the quality and consistency of online learning across health and social care.

Back at Bridgewater Place, I got a sneak preview of a new mobile-first header design before pop-up user testing later in the week.

At the end of the day, I went for a coffee with Paul from ODI Leeds, the brilliant Open Data Institute node of which NHS Digital is now a sponsor. I can’t wait to see what our teams can do together.


I deputised for Amanda, our head of profession, at the monthly NHS Digital Heads of Profession Forum. At a time when our organisation’s operating model is changing, this group has an important role to play in maintaining professional standards and realising our goal of being a learning organisation.

A shorter than usual NHS.UK senior leadership team meeting, followed by the weekly Leeds designers’ huddle, a chance for any designer to show work in progress and get feedback from their peers. Then a catch up with Pete, the designer on e-Referrals.


Catching up with people and emails. I try to keep Fridays free to reflect and plan for the following week, but sometimes important things crop up that make me break that rule.

In the afternoon, a call with colleagues to discuss our organisation’s potential response to the GDS consultation on accessibility of public sector websites and apps. Teams here already take their accessibility obligations seriously, and the new EU directive will help to further sharpen the focus.


Took my 12-year-old son to see the start of the Tour de Yorkshire stage at Richmond.

When we got home, this book was waiting for me: https://public.digital/book/ Highly recommended!