I’m aware that we’ve been a bit quiet on our blog lately. But behind the scenes, it’s been incredibly busy, as we’ve been getting ourselves set up for the long haul.

So what’s new?

We are now officially a programme

Since April, we have transitioned from what was a small discovery and alpha project into what’s now a major government programme. Becoming a programme is the mechanism required to get the funding and approvals we need to turn our ideas into reality and secure longer term investment.

We are now one of the key public-facing programmes within health’s Paperless 2020 portfolio. We are also a major project on the Infrastructure and Project Authority’s list of government projects to monitor. This is a welcome focus but with the new status comes an inevitable slew of documents, meetings and assessments. We have to manage the expectations of all the new people now involved, who haven’t been on the journey with us thus far but who we need to help us deliver our vision going forward.

We’ve been growing as a team – and we will continue to grow

The NHS.UK team is now 25 people working across London and Leeds and we’ve got plans to bring in more people over the coming weeks and months.

We’re also pleased to welcome Rachel Murphy who’s joined us this week as interim Digital Delivery Director. Rachel is an experienced CIO who will lead NHS.UK through its next phase of delivery – and will, no doubt, share some of her thinking on ‘where next’ on this blog soon.

It’s great having new people join with huge enthusiasm for the project, and it has been invaluable to bring more people in with experience of working on NHS Choices. We recently had an all-staff away day – our first since the Leeds team was established and the feeling of cohesion and shared purpose was fantastic.


But with growth comes growing pains. It takes time to get to know our new team members and establish ways of working, as well as work out how best to collaborate and share information when people work at different ends of the country.

We’ve moved organisations and offices

As a team, we are now part of the Health and Social Care Information Centre (soon to be renamed NHS Digital) and continue to work in collaboration with the Department of Health and NHS England. In recent weeks the London contingent has moved offices (twice!) and we are now working directly alongside colleagues in the NHS Choices live service team. This helps to build closer relationships between the two teams and share knowledge and expertise, e.g. through regular guest slots at our show and tells.


We are quickly outgrowing our corner of the office but it certainly does look good!

We’ve published our first content to Beta

It’s felt weird, and a bit frustrating, not to have been building or testing as much stuff – but you may have seen that last week we published our very first content on beta.nhs.uk, linked to from the relevant NHS Choices pages. It’s just one page at the moment, but it is the start of much more to come as we transfer some of what we did on the alpha into beta, and start to ramp things up.


To get to this stage we have had to agree clinical assurance processes, content sign-offs and security testing of the beta site, but having done all this will put us in good stead for the next releases. We’re now in the process of collecting and analysing the feedback that has started to come through from users.

We’re back in the lab

When you’re not testing with users it is easy to become introspective, so we’re all really excited to be back in the user research labs and to be able to invite some of our senior stakeholders to participate in the observation room and see things from a patient’s perspective.

In Leeds, we’re exploring the journeys around finding and connecting to services, starting with GP services. In London, we’re exploring the patient experience of going into hospital for a one-off procedure such as a hernia operation or a joint replacement due to osteoarthritis. This will help us map out a more extensive understanding of the patient journey.


This marks the start of a busy research period, and we will soon be back in NHS waiting rooms and people’s homes to meet patients, carers, staff and clinicians. We will be sharing our findings and methodologies as we go along as well as our plans for what comes next.


  1. Now that the project is really starting to get going, are you finding your more agile ways of working is clashing with current procedures in the org? Is there a plan to change that, like GDS are currently doing with Government?

    • Comment from Alice Ainsworth

      Yes, and yes. I could do a mini blog series in answer to your question. Maybe I should :) In some cases we’ve found workarounds, sometimes we’ve managed to change the process, and on some things we’re still in the midst of discussion, or trying to work out next steps. The great thing we’ve found about this project is that by being open about what we’re up to we attract other teams in similar positions and can more easily team up to tackle potential issues, or learn from what they’ve already done.


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