Inclusive Digital Transformation and my new job

Pete Nuckley

18th November 2020

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The NHS Widening Digital Participation programme that I’ve been working on for the past 3 years has come to an end and Good Things Foundation have published a great report bringing together everything we learnt during that time. 

Wrapping all that work up in a bow seemed like a perfect time to start something new so I’ve moved jobs.

My new job title is Deputy Director of Design and Delivery at mHabitat. Truth be told, it’s quite a fancy sounding job title that I’m pretty daunted by. Luckily everyone in the team is incredibly nice, passionate, talented and clever so I think they are going to look after me.

I thought I’d take a moment to put some thoughts down about the new mission I’m involved in, namely Inclusive Digital Transformation. 

An odd admission

What if ‘digital inclusion’ and all that amazing work done in organisations like Good Things Foundation and others is the System (specifically government services) admitting it got it wrong? A ‘we did this thing because it worked for a lot of people and for that percentage it doesn’t work for, well here’s some pennies to help them get there’ kind of admission.

You see, even though digital inclusion is so important, it’s a sticking plaster on a wider problem with digital transformation. 

I’m not saying we don’t continue to do it because a lot of services have gone digital already so we need to help people access them. But there’s something bigger here - and fundamentally opposed to the equity of access to services that is carved into the NHS.

Rich and speak french

If you can access digital tools and know how to use them then you have access to things like NHS.UK, the Apps Library, Remote Consultations and even not having to phone your GP at 8am to pretend you need an emergency appointment because you know you won’t be able to get in for 2 weeks. 

If you don’t have access to digital tools then you can’t do any of that. And you may have to feel the guilt of taking an ‘emergency appointment’ with your GP just to get some information about your long term condition. 

That’s a two tiered system!

I’ve spent quite a lot of time with excluded communities over the past 3 years (I’ve written previously about how it’s the system that is ‘hard to reach’ not those communities) and life is hard. 

I spent time with Mandy (not her real name) a while back. I was trying to show her the benefits of ‘being digital.’ She was so pleased with the possibilities.

The only snag was, when there wasn’t someone to spend time helping her on, or free access to, computers then the only way for Mandy would be to spend money she didn’t have and use a skill she hadn’t acquired yet. We might as well have said ‘to access these amazing beneficial tools all you need is to be rich and to speak French’ because that’s how big the barriers felt. Let’s add to this that Mandy has a complicated relationship with the police/social services/job centre / her landlord / kids school and more, so learning something new and spending money on frivolities like ‘digital’ is bottom of her list.

The NHS is just one more thing that has left Mandy behind. Mandy just needs a break. Just one thing to be easy to tell her that the world hasn’t turned it’s back on her. And the System says it’s all there for her…. As long as she is rich and speaks french.

Inclusive Digital Transformation

I guess that’s why I’m particularly interested in this idea of Inclusive Digital Transformation. How do we do digital transformation with those who are most excluded - and coincidentally tend to have the most to gain from well transformed services? 

Well this (co-design) is something very close to the hearts of everyone at mHabitat and I’m looking forward to being involved. 

We hope to write more on this as we work with more and more partners to help transform services. I’ll be letting you know the practical things that we learn on the way (good and bad).  If you are already doing some good stuff in your area then please let us know about it in our surveys

We want to shout about it from the rooftops and let everyone know.

I’m always up for a chat about this stuff so please feel free to contact me on peter.nuckley@nhs.net  - particularly if you have any ideas on how to not be daunted by fancy new job title :-)

Picture credit to Paul Hanaoka  

Pete Nuckley

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