5 minutes with...Matt Edgar

By Hilary Stephenson | 13/05/2019

Head shot of Matt Edgar

Meet Matt, Head of Design for NHS Digital. Matt will join us at Camp Digital 2019 to talk about "The experience of care". We caught up with Matt about his talk.

At Camp Digital, your talk is entitled “the experience of care”. Why is this important and what can the audience expect?

In this talk, I want to explore the way people’s expectations of care are rising and what that means for the way we design and deliver our national health service.

The NHS Constitution commits us to providing “high quality care that is safe, effective and focused on patient experience.” Increasingly the experience is impacted - for good and bad - by the way we design and deliver the digital bits of the service. That includes the systems used by our 1.3 million staff, as well as the ones used directly by patients and the public.

As a history graduate, it’s my immense privilege to work in a 70-year-old organisation that is still so true to its founding principles. As a technologist, I’m excited by what this service could become when we head into a world of genomics and personalised medicine.

Your career has been heavily focused on public sector service design. What are the biggest changes you’ve witnessed over the years?

I spent 12 years at the mobile operator Orange before becoming a consultant and training civil servants for the Government Digital Service, Department for Work & Pensions, and other departments. First, GDS made it possible for agile, user-centred design to exist in government at all. Then more recently, Lou Downe led the focus on end-to-end, front-to-back service design. It’s thanks to Lou and their team that the public sector is one of the most exciting places to work as a designer right now.

In parallel with my work at GDS, I was also part of a more grassroots service jamming movement, including hosting the Global GovJam in Leeds with my colleague Kathryn Grace. When we first ran the service jam in our city, it felt like an outsider initiative, with a handful of pioneers working in our local council and health services. Today, many of the people who were at those early jams are in influential positions in design and user research for local and national government, and big departments block book places at the jam. I hope we've retained our low-fi, fail fast spirit of “prototypes not presentations”.

How did you start out on your career path? And do you have advice for anyone thinking about getting into the field now?

After studying history at Manchester University, then journalism in Preston, I got my first job in local newspapers. I always preferred the smaller, human stories to frontpage splashes. I get the same feeling of fascination now when I observe user research with patients and staff.

In 1997, I moved into what was then called “new media,” and from editorial to product management and interaction design. The company I worked for was acquired by Orange, and I had the opportunity to lead Orange UK's design and usability team. That was when I discovered how rewarding it could be to coach others for success.

We recently selected an intake of 9 people for our first NHS Digital user-centred design graduate scheme. They’ll each get a chance to try a range of roles - user research, content, interaction design, service design, and graphic design. My advice to them will be to keep an open mind and take the time to find the work that gives them the greatest sense of accomplishment.

Can you share any exciting projects you’re working on at the moment?

Last year, we released a re-designed NHS website (NHS.UK) and a private beta of the new NHS App. There were tremendous efforts from both teams to get these launched. We’ve done a lot on responsiveness and accessibility, but we still have a lot to do to make the user experience of both website and app more intuitive, especially in the way different services work together. Priorities for the coming months include overall information architecture of the website, and a modernised service finder that guides people to the help they need, whatever their health problem and wherever they live in England. (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own devolved health services.)

What are you most looking forward to at Camp Digital?

I’m a massive fan of both Jared Spool and Dana Chisnell, so I’m looking forward to their keynotes. Representing the NHS at any event is always a pleasure because everyone is so invested in our brand and our purpose. I’m looking forward to learning from other sectors, and meeting anyone who has an interest in designing for health and care.

Matt's talk "The experience of care" will be in the Main Theatre at 13:00 on Wednesday 12th June. For more information or to book tickets, head on over to the Camp Digital website.