Too many unchecked assumptions in NHS Information Technology.

How many assumptions do we make when setting out a plan to change or build something?  It’s OK to make assumptions but it not OK if we don’t check that they’re correct.   Looking back on my time in NHS England I can now see that very few of the assumptions made were ever checked.   Here are some questions you might think about asking before you set out to do anything.   This one checks some assumptions about searching for such services.

This set checks some assumptions we might make about people  searching for services.

Do you look for local services?

  • How often do you look for local services?
  • Where do you look?
  • Why do you bother?
  • When did you last look for a service?
  • What service did you find?
  • Where did you find that service?
  • When you found a relevant service did you book or use  it?
  • When did you last book a service?
  • What are the implications to you personally of not finding services?
  • When was the last time you failed or ran out of time to find a service
  • Where or what else have you used to find services?
  • Who else shall I talk to and is there anything else I should have asked?

What to avoid

  • Talking about your idea and getting compliments about it
  • Don’t get caught up in their ideas for your product/service or change idea
  • Generic Claims, “I always/never…
  • Future Claims – “I could/would…
  • Hypothetical feedback – “I might/could…


The bottom line of this one, if people aren’t looking for services don’t build a service that provides a look-up service.

So, three things for any Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) in the NHS  to do before a Project kicked off:

  1. Make sure the assumptions of the Project are identified.
  2. Test those assumptions with a number of audiences, users old and young,  organisations and specialists etc.
  3. Make sure you have validated any learning from tests you make.

If you can’t do these three things; then don’t start.

Quick thought:  Did anyone test the assumptions made before the Electronic Prescription Service was built?

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