Jacqs Harper and David Ankers, IT leaders at Nuffield Health, describe the organisation’s incredible digital transformation and how its people-first attitude runs deep


Nuffield Health is the UK’s largest healthcare charity (independent of the NHS) operating 37 hospitals and 114 Fitness & Wellbeing Centres. IT leaders Jacqs Harper and David Ankers describe the organisation’s incredible digital transformation. A people-first attitude runs deep. Nuffield’s beneficiary-centric approach means “driving experiences” to be optimal and best-in-class is paramount.

“What was really compelling when I joined Nuffield was how much of a difference this business can make to the nation in terms of improving its health,” says Ankers. “And equally, how we as a team can make the lives of practitioners so much easier. There’s a huge amount of value IT can add.”

Striving for business agility

Nuffield Health was once a more traditional tech organisation, and has become a business-driven one. A necessity for such a large business going through a major digital transformation. This means the creation of cross-functional teams – ‘squads’ that are aligned to a specific collection of beneficiary journeys. 

“It could be someone coming to us for a product or service, or it could be an internal customer,” says Harper. “We’ve got 19 squads planned and they’ve got all the resources needed to make a change or maintain a service. I think it’s quite common to have that type of structure in the digital space. It’s probably less common to have it right the way through your whole technology team.”

Delivering improvement

The reason this format improves Nuffield Health’s ability to deliver outcomes is twofold. One, there’s a small team that’s hyper-focused on a collection of journeys; there’s a clear goal and they work together to deliver improvements. Secondly, these smaller groups are able to build richer relationships with their business stakeholders.

“So, effectively, you can have one small squad with a product owner and that product owner from technology interfaces into the critical stakeholder in the business. This could be for our charity squad – doing the technology work that supports our Flagships programmes which are free of charge to the public. Being tightly aligned with our charity director and making sure they understand what the strategic drivers are is key,” says Harper.

The ultimate goal is to set up teams that can be responsive and manage change as it happens – something that’s unlocked through technology itself as well as the communication technology enables. Nuffield Health is early in its journey with the squads – there are currently four out of 19 in place. The team is excited about the outcomes and agility it will be able to create and deliver.

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