Weeknote 24th March 2023

Rochelle Gold
4 min readMar 25, 2023

What did I do to make a difference this week

This week the opportunity I had to get a very senior NHS stakeholder observing user research turned into reality. I had the pleasure to host the CEO of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard and the Director of Transformation Tim Ferris at our Leeds office and tell them about the work of our incredible UCD colleagues and how we embed user research and user centred design into product delivery. They also joined our CIO and Exec Director of Product Delivery in our observation lab to observe members of the public taking part in user research on one of our products. We also got a shout out at the transformation directorate all hands from Tim.

Seeing that people, and particularly the person, at the highest level in the NHS understand the value of user centred design and take the time to observe it in action is priceless. It makes a huge difference to colleagues, particularly during times of change. Big thank you to Tom and Claudio for their input and making sure the user research lab ran smoothly and to the whole product team for letting us gatecrash their observation session. I am curious as to where next to aim UR observation opportunities. Anyone got a serving prime minster into a UR observation session?

I’ve been focussing recently on understanding blockers to our work from senior leadership perspective and had a number of really useful meetings and conversations in the office with colleagues to help me gather their unmet user need. The conversations also helped me to provide clarity to them on my role as oil for the wheels as opposed to the brakes. Being in the office this week for some of these meetings again led to other more unplanned conversations with colleagues which have been really useful in some thinking I have been doing about where I can provide the most value in the new organisation.

I spent a non-working day in my patient representative capacity at the Can-gene Can-var programme day in London. We had a day of people presenting their work and discussions about the issues it raised. Being in a room of such incredible minds, motivated to create real change in cancer genetics to help prevent cancer and save lives was a very inspiring end to my week. I heard the stories behind the data, how it was obtained, cleansed and analysed and the enormous amount of complex work that has to go into just getting through the first 2 parts of that process. I also heard about how risk predictions are not static nor certain, how risk prediction models are often based on best assumptions and discussed how can we best communicate the uncertainty that comes with that to patients (and others working in the health and care system) and work to make the best joint health decisions we can from it.

I heard about the how primary and secondary care context and populations means looking at the same data for those areas is like comparing apples and oranges, about the impact on awareness and prevention work of if and how we code things in patient records, how alternative digital and telephone channels for pre-screening information can be as effective and as acceptable to patients as the current norm and how simply enabling people to provide their family history online rather than on paper has led to not only time saving for patients and staff but greater ability to identify patients that don’t need to go through the process of genetic screening and the freeing up of scarce screening capacity for those that do. One of the researchers also presented an overview of some great collaborative co-design work with patients, charities and community partners to redesign patient leaflets they have been doing in conjunction with the patient representatives.

As it often does in my voluntary work, my work world overlapped with the work that is being done by the epidemiologists, oncologists and genetic researchers that were present. I saw how the data collected, linked and shared by my organisation enabled their work to happen. It was almost accidental observation of users of my organisation’s products and services (I could probably count it as part of my 2 hours every 6 weeks). I even met a colleague I had never met before. The day brought to life the incredible impact that our work in the data space has. I heard first-hand how it makes a difference and literally saves lives. I hope that my data services colleagues get to see these outcomes from their work too and are as proud of it as I am.

I managed a pre work 5k on Wednesday and 6.5k on Sunday which really made a difference to my clarity of thought and approach to work and home life.

What I need to do to make more of a difference

A frequent theme in lots of conversations was the need for cross organisational knowledge management of user research outputs. Yes, a shorter way to describe this may be the word ‘repository’ but many many brave people have tried to climb that mountain cross gov and many many have struggled with the paths built on crumbling rock and the ever evolving landscape and weather conditions. It is a bit like how actors refer to Macbeth as ‘The Scottish Play’ to avoid its curse! I do however believe we need something more than community and user researcher networks to share what we know and have learnt previously through user research. We have conducted discovery and alpha work on this a few years back but the resource effort vs value meant we couldn’t prioritise it over other more pressing research ops infrastructure. I’ve found an opportunity for capacity to revisit this and given that it is emerging as a need wider than our UCD colleagues, it has gone up the priority list as to how we could make a difference.

Next week

  • UCD professional development work
  • Final show and tell of inclusive design work
  • Follow up work from the ‘urgent ask’
  • End of year reviews



Rochelle Gold

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