Weeknote 18th November 2022

Rochelle Gold
3 min readNov 19, 2022
Rochelle Gold and CEO of NHS Digital, Simon Bolton, cutting purple ribbon that has been placed across the doorway to a user reseach observation room

The highlight of this week was that we (finally) officially opened our purpose-built user research lab in Leeds. It has been a long time coming, was nearly scuppered by the pandemic, and is the product of hard work by our user research community, our estates and tech services colleagues and our research ops team, without whom it wouldn’t exist.

User research helps us to get closer to the people that use our products and services and understand how we can make a difference. Contextual research in health and care sites, in homes and other places where people use these services, is always going to be the primary method to develop understanding of our users and how they interact with our products in context. However, our labs help us to focus on the detailed work and specific tricky issues that we are trying to crack. We also know from experience that well timed sessions in labs have prevented our products excluding members of the population, prevented the publishing of information that people misunderstand, misinterpret, or mistrust and it has also prevented clinical risk.

It is an incredible achievement to finally have the capability in house, not least because of the efficiency savings but because this now makes it really easy for all staff — from members of our product teams to the most senior stakeholder — to just drop in to observe people using our products during their working day. Location is also no longer an issue as we can even stream sessions straight to people’s desks. The Wade-Gery review recommended that staff across the new NHSE, especially decision makers, get closer to their users. Having this lab lowers the barriers to that happening.

I’ve worked in research for over 20 years and I never fail to learn something new and gain new perspective every time I have delivered or observed user research. These labs are for the whole organisation and our health and care partners to keep doing that. Senior leaders at the opening, including our CEO, have already committed to attending sessions. We have a lot going on across the organisation, especially at the moment. Spending time experiencing how itfeels for people to use our products and services, keeps our focus on what matters and why we choose to work here — to deliver great care to people.

Also this week: I met with one of the Topol fellows to discuss all things UCD, with colleagues as part of a maturity review planning session that Tom led, had various assurance discussions including the digital technology assurance board and caught up with the People Digital portfolio and colleagues in Health Education England about joint work. I also met with a group of colleagues who have formed a design justice group within the organisation to get their input on our inclusive design plans moving forward.

In a meeting this week, I challenged a colleague on language that I didn’t think was helpful. There has been a propensity for use of the phrase ‘we all need to be grown ups’ when someone challenges something. This can seem like you are shaming someone for having a different view and for making an often valid challenge. It is considered challenge and differing views that are the realities of ‘grown up’ conversations and what gives us the ability to making robust quick decisions — something that we need to do a lot of at the moment.

Some of things I will be involved in next week:

· Working on plans for inclusive design

· Refining a blog post that’s been bubbling away for a while

· Capabilities work

· Product mindset workshop

· Women in Tech Excellence Awards. I am a finalist in the Digital Leader of the Year category so will be attending the awards ceremony in London



Rochelle Gold

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