August Monthnote

Rochelle Gold
5 min readSep 3, 2023
Multicoloured waterfall made entirely of lego bricks
Waterfall made of Lego in the Lego house in Billund

August was another busy month and in which I also took leave to go to ‘the home of the brick’ in Denmark. Thoroughly recommend anyone, adult or child to visit all the Lego related places in Billund, particularly the Lego House.

Workwise this month, I have been collaborating with HR colleagues to balance all the user needs in our recruitment process. We need to ensure positive candidate experience as well as a robust equitable process which can be a tricky balance but I think we have got there in the end. We are testing it with our internal opportunities before we go to external recruitment. We have agreed however that all candidates will get the interview questions in advance which is great step forward. I’ve also collaborated with commercial and other colleagues to get a large procurement through some more hoops and we have cleared some onboarding hoops to get some of the new user researcher contractors starting on priority work.

I dedicated time to think through all I have been soaking up about the digital primary care ‘spaghetti bowls’ which enabled it to click into clarity in my head. I have put a proposal together about how we can make sense of it (make it into a nourishing balanced meal for the system, if you want to continue the analogy) and have been bringing colleagues together around this, getting backing from leadership and am working on how to move it forward. I have also been working with Charis to look at end to end service design in pharmacy first and independent prescribing work.

As promised in previous weeknotes, Ellen and Sam published their blog post on inclusive design and have been touring our community and senior leadership meetings to tell people more about their work. We also welcomed our new Associate Director of Product and User Centred Design to the organisation. It is great to have Helen finally on board. I am really looking forward to working with her and seeing our work benefit from the perspective her experience working in other organisations and industries will bring.

I spent time writing and delivering a keynote at Interact 2024 on inclusive design in the NHS, the practical reality of strategic inclusive design. It was a great conference and international community of people working in the human computer interaction space. I met many new people, heard many new perspectives and bounced thoughts with many new minds. Going to conferences are a great space to reflect, learn from others and spark thinking in your own mind. They also remind us of the expertise we have and how much that can contribute to the body of knowledge. After my keynote, a professor of HCI and a number of other experts in the field told me my talk and its content was the best they had heard in a very long while. When we speak in these forums, seeing the value of our work and our passion for it reflected back from others is a great motivator and something that helps keep you going through the tough times. Being told you and your work is valued is important to hear, whatever level you are in an organisation.

Academic colleagues have to write publications and conferences papers as part of their role. They have to get what they know out there, it is how they get funding for future work and their job relies on it. This has its pros and cons, but it does mean that publishing what is learnt and conference speaking is part of business as usual. It isn’t side of desk, it isn’t on top of everything they do. Working in the open through blog posts, weeknotes etc. is how we are sharing our knowledge outside of academia. It is part of our roles but still isn’t viewed or deemed as business as usual or part of our definitions of ‘done’ and ‘delivery’.

What was clear from attending this conference is that people working cross government and in the public sector have a lot to contribute to the knowledge base. At the conference dinner I was sat with a professor of human computer interaction and director of a digital accessibility initiative in America. He mentioned that one of the conference sessions had sparked a conversation about trying to get a community for accessibility together in the UK and asked me for my thoughts. I spent the rest of the evening telling him about our organisational and cross gov communities, what we do to embed accessibility in from the start of design and development, service standards and spend controls as well as all the great research we have conducted across government to embed accessibility into our products from the start. All of this, he and others in this discussion were unaware of and there are many things that I learnt are happening in academia that the cross gov community are likely to be unaware of.

Speaking publicly at conferences and events, writing about your work openly and in public are not luxuries or nice to haves or about self-promotion. They are essentials to do your job, advance everyone’s knowledge and deliver better services for people. We should all be doing more and it should be recognised as part of our job. It is good for the advancement of our work and delivery but also the people that work within our organisations. We are doing brilliant work. We need to tell people about it so they can also do brilliant work too.

Coming up next month

  • Keynoting at and attending Service Design in Government
  • Speaking at HETT
  • Hearing about the great work that our colleagues have been doing and seeing what opportunities emerge for people through the internal recruitment process.
  • Moving some of our vacancies to external recruitment
  • Being mindful that September can be a hard month for me on a personal level. It is the month with the anniversary of my mum passing and Jewish New Year, a time of family celebration but also a time when you notice who isn’t at the table. This year these both happen on the same day so I need to make sure that I prioritise time out to reflect and feel whatever I need to feel.

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Rochelle Gold

Head of User Research and User Centred Design @NHS England (formerly NHS Digital). Views my own.