I haven’t weeknoted in public for a couple of years now for various reasons but starting a new phase of my work-life feels like a good time to get back into it. I have recently taken the plunge into contracting and have started at NHS Digital with the 111 online teams.

I’ve always done weeknotes primarily for myself to reflect on what I’ve learnt and I am learning LOADS at the moment, not just about how NHS digital works but what contracting life involves and how that differs from being a full time member of staff.

I’m two weeks in now so I’m already going at my old cadence of fortnightly notes, I’m feeling rusty, and my brain is full, I’m hoping writing these will order some thoughts into a more coherent structure. It might not, lets see!

Good things.

Everyone at 111 online have been brilliant and welcoming. It’s never easy starting a new job remotely but people have taken the time to get me up to speed. The teams are really good, a phrase I’ve heard more than once is “If it doesn’t work we’ll change it” which is music to my ears.

I’m actually enjoying being back in a delivery role after a break, I had become pretty disillusioned with it but I’m finding my groove again, it helps to be in an environment that works the way I think digital services should be built, with longstanding teams for the life of the service.

I haven’t come across much ego, just people who really understand what 111 online is for, what its good at, and most importantly what could be better, theres no hiding behind vanity metrics or success theatre, thats not to say the teams don’t celebrate when they achieve things (party parrot is in full effect) but they have a healthy awareness of what could be better and what constraints they are operating within.

I bumped into Trilly Chatterjee and we had a lovely chat, it was so nice meeting a twitter friend in (nearly) real life and Trilly is working on a product that supports 111 online so hopefully we’ll work together in future.

Learned things.

I think I’ve stuffed my brain with more acronyms than would be possible, luckily the team maintain an extremely helpful confluence page of acronyms and I’ve already added some as I come across them.

It’s nice working with a group of DM’s supporting the 111 online teams, I’ve already learn’t some useful tips from them, and hopefully shared some ideas with them, having a small community for your craft is always such a great way to develop your skills. There is a wider DM community for NHS Digital within I’m looking forward to contributing to, I’m mindful of being the “know it all contractor” though.

The team I’m supporting at the moment have some interesting challenges with their work, they are the liaisons between 111 online and the wider NHS, their role is really varied and they have a LOT of stakeholders they interact with. Often these interactions can have really long lead times and may not lead to a fruitful outcome. It feels like their work is very “sales-funnely” I’m reading up on approaches in sales and account management roles to see if there are any useful approaches that may work better for them.


Getting started with NHSD was surprisingly difficult, mainly because I didn’t know what to expect from a contractor role, there are so many more moving parts, I was interacting with NHSD, the recruitment company, and umbrella company to move getting started along, it was a new reality I think I’ll need to accept and factor in the lead time on future contracts.

User research sessions were surprisingly hard this week, I sat in on 3, as always they were really enlightening, but listening to quite personal and intimate details of a persons life was emotionally tough. Previous UR I have sat in has been for quite mundane “life admin” purposes, yes you get a range of emotions, such as frustration, but this was different. When you visit the NHS you’re at your most vulnerable and personal, I should have expected this and been prepared for it.


I got some good leads for a user researcher we need for a piece of work I’ll be leading in the next couple of weeks (if you are a contract UR and are interested the role is still open, 3 months initially for a Discovery, with likelihood to extend). I’m looking forward to starting it, its a classic Discovery, lots of blurry edges and unknowns.

I made it through the first two weeks without my brain dissolving into a gooey mess! There’s a lot still to learn but I think I’m making a bit of an impact, and helping out already, feels good.

In other news…

Talking of achievements, my eldest daughter has just passed the £2000 mark on her fundraiser. She is doing a 25kg deadlift for Friedrichs Ataxia research as part of the lend us some muscle campaign. I’ve never publicly shared that Phoebe has FA before, as its her story to tell, I wanted to do it when she was comfortable, we talked about it, and what might be the consequences good and bad, I’m really proud of her and blown away by how much support she has received, thanks everyone!

You can sponsor Phoebe here. Thank you!

We went Dolphin watching in Padstow last week it was awesome! We got to nail it around in a RIB at 50knots and saw Dolphins, seals and loads of Kittiwakes. Then we had chippy tea, perfect!

“2 common dolphins swimming alongside the boat, one of them is breaking the surface with its fin”