top of page
  • Kathryn

A new role as Head of Design at NHSx

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

Start date Tuesday 1 February 2022 - some thoughts as I start the journey...

It’s taken a long time to get an opportunity like this.

My new role is the Head of Design at NHSx, part of NHS England & Improvement.

I finally have a chance to try this role out and learn by doing.

It is a promotion from my existing role as Lead Service Designer in the same team and community, though you do have to apply independently alongside the open world of UCD professionals. For me personally, it was really helpful to know the environment I would be working in from the inside before applying. I can see the value of my experience and skills in a clearer way than ever before. I’m well aware of the challenges.

I have rooted my thinking for this role in two key areas:

1 - my deep understanding of how design approach can be applied across complex services and systems

2 - the lived experience of having been a family carer for my parents, one of whom I managed and cared for through their dementia years at home to the end of their life. I managed over forty two support services on my last count as a carer.

These two significant parts of my life help me to see the landscape of today’s NHS and all it’s many complexities and challenges.

I’m not excited by shiny technology for it's own sake.

I’m not impressed by brands, especially if they do not deliver when you need them.

I’m impressed by health practitioners having the tools they need to do their jobs.

I’m impressed by citizens, patients and carers, being connected and having the communication and access to critical information, in the form they need it, at the time they are ready for it when managing their own and their friends and family’s health and care.

Not everything needs to be digital.

Digital tools are for us to use to achieve our goals and not the other way round. I know that when it comes to life and death, it's people that gather and technology follows.

Not everything needs to be in the open - some services need to be discreet and sensitive to people’s needs especially when they are struggling with their health and care needs.

I won’t forget the US online services that helped me when I felt like there was no support online or in person in the UK - dementia care tested me to my human limits.

It will be interesting to learn more about the NHS systems, especially as we join NHS England & Improvement this year.

I can bring a frontline services view from a patient and carers perspective on so many areas. Services change all the time, are different for different people, different contexts, different funding systems so I plan to make engagement with the frontline a part of all my teams’ jobs in projects and in general.

I have a huge privilege to be able to start from the amazing foundations of digital design systems created by the NHS Service Manual and NHS.UK Prototype kit - they catalysed the creation of so many emergency covid response services over the past two years - EVERYONE NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND THAT.

I plan to be part of a community that build upon these design foundations and take them to the next level, helping leadership to engage with them even further eg. taking the design principles as inspiration for our future endeavours. The leadership don’t need to know how all the engines work, but they do need to understand the value of what we do. We know that in tough times having a utilitarian vehicle with replaceable and adaptable parts (that enables access for everyone everywhere) is going to be far more effective than a shiny luxury car with a chauffeur that eats petrol and damages the environment.

The wider NHS design community I am part of are weary and I hope to bring some new oxygen into the room to help us all move forward together. I want to be a part of community that is open, collaborative, challenges each other, learns from each other and looks after each other. I aim to be an inclusive leader that slows down to enable everyone to take part and to ensure every voice is heard.

I've been reading... Learning more about the roots and history of the NHS from Matt Edgar

Learning more about designing your 'organisation' from Tero Väänänen

Learning more about skills development and user centred design maturity for essential health and care services from Rochelle Gold

Learning more about design principles from NHS Digital Challenging my own thinking by following folks on Twitter - people who provoke, challenge, critique, review how we work, how we think about the systems and services we create and help develop today.

My promise... To put people at the heart of everything I do… I'll be reciting the mantra. "Look after you, look after the team and then the work will follow." I'm so excited to be able to work with the teams around me. This is going to be a tough gig, but we're in this together. Important work to be done.


Finally I want to mention a course I attended in March 2021.

UPFRONT Global Bond - a 6 week course on changing confidence led by Lauren Currie.

This was the dynamite I needed… to help me find my own inner confidence.

I never saw how many limitations I was accepting blindly,

I never saw how I was complicit in limiting myself until I did this course and then became part of the global bond - a diverse community of women growing in courage and confidence together from all parts and at different stages of life.

The course helped me to say 'no' and to say 'yes' more confidently to get what I needed and that has made me feel so positive about what I am now doing and have the chance to do in this new role. UPFRONT course - Highly Recommended.

1,249 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page