A day in the life – Head of Engagement

Nicola UnderdownNicola Underdown, Head of Engagement (West)
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

My day starts with a quick read through of my emails, to see if anything important has landed.  Because we work all over the country, we are pretty flexible with our working patterns, which sometimes means messages arriving at peculiar times!  Today there’s nothing which needs an immediate response, so I can get straight on with things.

My first call is to my contact in Bath and North East Somerset  (BANES) Council.  They are one of the areas that we work with through the Public Service Transformation Network, and they were recognised for their innovative approach to information when they also received funding from the Transformation Challenge Award.  We have been working with them for a while, and now have a good understanding of their aims, so it is mostly a case of keeping in touch with how things are developing on the ground so that the new Engagement Manager(s) can get straight to work once they’re in post.  Like many places, BANES are looking at how information can help them with a number of the big policy issues – worklessness, troubled families (and earlier intervention more generally), welfare reform and so on.  It’s fascinating how these national issues play out at local level; for example, Bath is a very desirable place to live, so the cost of living is high, which makes life very difficult for people trying to get suitable housing in the city.  They often end up living in or near Bristol, which then creates demand for transport – is the supply there?  BANES want to use information shared between partners to understand the issues, and then also share information to deliver better services.  Anyway, I’ll be down there in a week or so, to keep in touch and also to introduce Charlotte – so if issues are coming up which might benefit from some coordination between government departments, we can capture some evidence direct from the source.

My next call is to Sheffield.  We haven’t been working with them as long, so I’m still learning about their transformation programme.  They know that information sharing is key to all of their ambitions, so I’m arranging to meet with a range of people from across their workstreams, to understand how it fits together, and to help them design a session which will get the right people thinking about the information sharing side of things.  Being based in Manchester, it is pretty easy to get across to Sheffield, so hopefully I’ll be able to see them in the next couple of weeks.  Then I drop a couple of quick emails to colleagues in the Network, so they know where we’re up to and can help build our support into their own thinking.

After a couple of hours at the desk, I’m ready for a change of scenery, so it’s off to meet with colleagues from Learning and Development in our host organisation, Leicestershire County Council.  We’re putting a really comprehensive programme of learning and development in place, with some interesting and high-profile speakers, ready for our new team.  We talk about the kinds of things we’d like to cover, from the culture and working practices of the new Centre of Excellence, through to policy areas of service transformation that we work on.  We also talk about how to deliver this – I’m really keen that we provide solid grounding and support, but also leave space for new team members to shape their own development too.  I grab my lunch, and quickly check the inbox, before getting outside for some fresh air.  Finding space and time to reflect on my own work is really important, and is very much encouraged by my colleagues.

Then I’m into a telecon with colleagues from within the health system.  I met them a couple of days ago, when we worked to take a whole system view of some of the ‘thorny’ issues around health and social care integration.  They have recently put some collaboration tools in place, and I want to learn from their experiences – sharing good practice is a daily reality for us!

In the course of the conversation, they mention some new guidance has been published on the Integrated Digital Care Fund.  Although this has a technology focus, this will be a key mechanism to support local areas who are integrating health and social care.  I download a copy to read, and then share it with my colleagues.  We keep on top of a range of policy initiatives as they develop, and this is a helpful insight into the context we’re all working in.

I have a quick check of twitter, and check the website is running smoothly.  Then it’s time for a few emails; I’m getting preparations underway for the next meeting with our Academic Advisory Panel, and I’ll be helping update the Steering Group when they meet in a month’s time, so I can start working on my papers.  I check I’ve got everything I need for tomorrow – must read that Integrated Digital Care Fund paper – and that’s it for today.