Weeknote: 11 to 15 March 2019

I’m trying a different format for weeknotes to see if I can be more consistent in keeping up with them if I limit myself to a few simple questions. Thanks to Sam Villis for the definitive survey of weeknote styles which I’ve used to choose this format. If I’m doing it right, the questions will vary week to week. Here goes…

1. What inspired me this week?

  • Meeting the shortlisted candidates for our NHS Digital User Centred Design Graduate Programme, and getting to spend time with my brilliant colleagues who volunteered to help out at the assessment centre. Growing the talent of the future has to be time well spent.

Team photo of all the user researchers, designers, content people, and graduates who helped in the assessment centre for our first ever cohort of NHS Digital user-centred design graduates
  • Meeting design master’s students at the Royal College of Art. They asked many smart questions about designing for health and care.

2. What connections did I make?

  • Spent a couple of hours in the user research lab with the National Data Opt Out and NHS App teams. For several of our teams, 2018 was a year of minimum viable product to get the basics right, one service at a time. Sitting in the observation room with members of both teams together, I understood how 2019 will be the year we connect all that stuff into coherent user experiences that work together to fit our emergent understanding of users’ goals.

3. What capabilities did I build?

  • I joined designers, developers, and testers in a session of accessibility training with Alistair Campbell of Nomensa. Alistair had tailored the training based on manual and automated testing of the NHS website, and used examples from the site to show us where things could be improved.
  • Conducted second interviews for a lead researcher on the NHS website. Exciting news on that soon.

4. What goals were set?

  • I uploaded my learning contract for the NHS Leadership Academy Nye Bevan Programme. The learning contract describes how I will demonstrate to myself and my peers in my learning set that I have met the programme learning objectives. I also ran through this with my director, Ian, who was encouraging and made helpful suggestions.
  • Picked up a high priority action to help one of our teams with their forthcoming service standard assessment. I was pleased we were able to pull together trained assessors at very short notice for a mock assessment on Monday.

5. What do I need to take care of?

  • One of our teams is feeling under pressure because a few people have left and we’re still in the process of replacing them. The work to bring in replacements takes up the team’s time too, so colleagues need to go easy on them in the meantime.
  • With all those brilliant, high-value things this week, I got to Friday having hardly made a dent in my email inbox. Around mid-week I took a hard look at the gaps in my calendar and identified the things I realistically had a chance of getting done by the end of next week. Note to keep prioritising, delegating and saying no to lower value work.

Weeknote: 14 to 18 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 Empower the Person portfolio Monday morning call.
Later in design team office hours there was a discussion about examples of well functioning multi-disciplinary teams. We have these working well in some parts of our organisation, and in others… less so. Lots of learning we can do from each other.
In the afternoon, I spent some time preparing for the session at e-Health Week (see Wednesday).

A catch up with one of the designers who has been working on the connecting to chlamydia testing service beta and is now moving across to join the NHS website redesign team. While it’s good to have stability on teams, it’s also important that the redesign work is done with input from designers who have worked across a wide range of content and services.
Lunch with a colleague from NHS England. We chatted about how human-centred design matches up with the personalised care programmes that he looks after.
Back at Bridgewater Place, a short intro meeting with one of our product development directors. I’m trying to work out how best design can support each directorate in NHS Digital’s new organisation structure, and he gave me some useful context.
Fortnightly design leadership meeting. We confirmed the agenda for the team event (see Thursday), talked about on-boarding some new starters, and generally tidied up the actions in the “doing” column of our design leadership Trello board.

A packed day at HIMSS UK e-Health Week in London.
On arriving, I dialled into a quick phone call I had scheduled with Chris who leads the 111 Online programme. (Only after the call did we realise we were both dialling in from different places at the same venue.)
I watched a main theatre presentation by Juliet Bauer, NHS England’s Chief Digital Officer, and the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) for Empower the Person portfolio. While I know what’s going on across the portfolio, it’s always good to hear Juliet tell the story of the work we’re doing. I tweeted a couple of quite of special interest to me and my team.

After that, I was onto another phone call, with colleagues pulling together our response to the GDS consultation on accessibility of public websites and apps. Sarah, one of our digital graduates did a great job of keeping us on track as we worked through the questions in the consultation.
The e-Health Week session I ran with Victoria Betton of m-Habitat Lenny Naar from the Helix Centre was intended to be a hands-on taster of some key human-centred design principles. We asked people to work in pairs, one of them as the “user” of a page on the NHS website with a particular scenario in mind (we picked paracetamol as an example). The other half of each pair was the researcher, watching what their user did, and noting down any points about the experience. Later in the session, we asked them to sketch their own potential solutions to improve the page. Always nice to get a mention in someone else’s weeknotes.
Also at e-Health Week, I saw a session by NHS Digital’s Eve Roodhouse, David Corbett and Phil Nixon, and finally met (on her very last working day here!) our wonderful Chief Nurse Anne Cooper.

On the way into work I picked up on a sketchnote of a #OneTeamGov meetup by Sam Villis at GDS, and got into an interesting conversation about the power of duplication.

Sam reflected on that in her weeknote too.
The main thing of the day was our design team event – the third time we’d got all the designers together from across NHS Digital since I started here last June. This time we welcomed guests, Helen and Lindsay from the NHS Business Services Authority. Everyone enjoyed hearing their honest account of simplifying the complex world of help with health costs. We ran a couple of rounds of rapid fire show and tells – 14 designers showing their work in the space of 90 minutes. In the event feedback, this format divides opinion – everyone likes hearing about lots of different services, but some say the 5 minute time limit feels rushed. I was just massively impressed that every designer who presented was so good at telling their story to a room of 35 people under time pressure.
Over lunch, some of us discussed the work in progress on changes to our cookie consent as part of the GDPR implementation.
The team day also gets a mention in Andrew’s weeknote. Andrew’s weeknotes are always worth a read.

I spent a big chunk of the morning with the Citizen Identity programme, chewing over naming and language in the service. Then an afternoon catching up with emails and planning for the week ahead.

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!