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Delivering digital services at scale in a crisis

The context

At NHS Digital, Axiologik personnel were accountable for a programme portfolio in excess of £150m per annum in FY20-21, rising to £325m per annum in FY21-22. During this period, many of the services within the portfolio were either initiated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic or put under significant pressure to deliver faster in order to relieve pressure on the NHS front line.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, NHS Digital needed experienced leadership with a detailed understanding of how to build large scale, critical national services at pace within a complex enterprise architecture and in a regulated environment.

"NHS Digital’s portfolio of work includes management of a number of large, complex digital product development programs. The NHS is a challenging environment in which to deliver these programs: it is a complicated, heterogenous technical landscape and any large program involves working with multiple stakeholders, often in labyrinthine governance structures. During the pandemic, extraordinary time pressures and intensity of demand were added to these challenges. We work with a large number of third parties who bring a rich set of skills and expertise to our work, but among them it is rare to find organisations able to take on very senior leadership of programs of the scale and complexity of those we have entrusted to Axiologik."

"Axiologik are highly competent and absolutely reliable. Our ability to respond to the pandemic would have been greatly diminished without their support."

Sarah Wilkinson - Chief Executive of NHS Digital

What we did

Axiologik provided executive leadership across the whole Product Development portfolio, including direct programme leadership in establishing the digital services and infrastructure underpinning COVID-19 Testing and Vaccinations. Beyond critical COVID programmes, Axiologik personnel provided portfolio level executive leadership across all the major national scale, citizen-facing digital services such as, the NHS App and 111 Online, as well as critical services across urgent & emergency care, primary care and cancer screening.

In particular, the COVID Testing and Vaccinations programmes needed to mobilise and start delivering at extreme pace. Axiologik provided expert programme and delivery management teams into these programmes to drive the pace of delivery whilst retaining strong user-centred design practices and maintaining structured and disciplined delivery control.

The results

Axiologik personnel have played a fundamental and critical role in the NHS’s digital response to COVID-19, ranging from direct leadership to design, build and scale COVID-19 Testing and Vaccinations digital services, to establishing a relentless pace of delivery across a much broader range of citizen and NHS-facing products.

Throughout, Axiologik personnel drove a focus on holistic service design, user-centricity and mature engineering practices to enable high quality digital services to be released and iterated at a significantly faster pace than the NHS had previously delivered. This focus on modern digital delivery, exhibited at its best during the unique pressures of a pandemic, is now regarded as an exemplar of how to deliver complex, critical digital services at pace within healthcare.

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