From the earliest stages of planning this project it was always our intention to build some prototypes to help demonstrate the vision for NHS.UK. And we knew that in order for the team to be ambitious, creative, truly user-focused we needed to protect them (as much as possible) from the day to day processes and pressures that are inevitable on a project of this kind.

But we also need everyone to stay connected to emerging policy priorities, the work of other health technology and digital programmes, and the feedback that we hear. So we’ve created a shield, or what I’ve started calling a forcefield, around the people working on the build side of the team.

I’m Alice Ainsworth, and I head up the digital strategy, capability and standards work in the Department of Health, and I lead the strategy side of team on the NHS.UK Alpha project.

Together with Dan, Nin, Rebecca, Simon and Ben I’ve spent the last few years working hard to improve the quality of digital services in health and care. We’ve used the tools that we’ve had available to us: the digital spend controls, assurance of digital projects against the digital by default service standards and existing commissioning arrangements between our organisations.

Now we’re leading the strategy, engagement and operations workstreams of the alpha project. Over the 12 weeks our role is to engage widely with our stakeholders – clinicians, suppliers, patient groups, programme leads, finance teams to name a few – to develop and test ideas about what a future service could and should look like, and where we should start.

We’re excited to be working as part of a great team that covers both delivery and strategy. We work as one team, using the same wall for our backlog, writing joint week notes and hosting a joint show and tell. And ultimately we’re working towards the same objectives, refining our priorities with each weekly sprint.

We’ve come a long way already, gaining agreement to run our project using agile governance principles and to build and test our prototypes in the open. This blog, where we’ll share our work is part of that open and transparent working and the constant feedback loop between what we hear and what we do next is central to our approach.

By working in this way we also want to demonstrate that a small skilled team can rapidly produce exciting stuff when they have the tools and the freedom to do so, and we want to build credibility with communities who may currently be sceptical.

So please do hold us to account on that and share your thoughts on things we should be looking at.

Follow me on Twitter at @aliceainsworth and the project on #nhsalpha  

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