Archive January 2019

My Digital Academy Journey

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Whenever people ask me about the Digital Academy, I always respond by telling them it is the best learning I’ve ever done because it offers input from world class experts on the latest trends in our industry combined with relevant history and evidence which is all closely aligned with my real-world job of implementing digital transformation within the NHS. 

Systems and technology are essential tools to support the NHS to become the organisation of the future that citizens need.  The Digital Academy is equipping me with understanding, tools and skills to enable me to be play a key part in that. The course has been mentally challenging and made me focus on my own personal development. I’ve read more books in the last 10 months that in the previous 10 years but all that hard work has added value to who I am and I how I operate.

The Digital Academy has challenged my approach towards delivery of new systems and I am becoming a facilitator of transformation rather than someone who sees implementation as my final goal. People are 90% of the key to successful change and finding new ways to engage our staff, patients, service users and carers will be critical to our success; the current module is radically developing my thinking around human centred design. Previous modules have refined my understanding of the complexity, challenge and economics that influence health and care, encouraged new ways of delivering programmes of change and provided a wealth of tools to help analyse and present information.

My efforts during the first year of the Digital Academy will reward me with a post graduate diploma and from April 2019 I will be progressing to the final year to complete the full MSc in Digital Healthcare Leadership. This wasn’t a tough decision…

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So why the MSc? 

Right time– Today more than ever the NHS is on a vast programme to utilise digital systems to transform health and care. Almost all other industries have been disrupted by technology and have improved the experience and outcomes for users whilst also generating new efficiencies and scale. Just looking at what Netflix has done for film or Spotify for music – these examples demonstrate that (whilst these disruptors have left casualties along the way who didn’t transform) the outcome for end users has been better access to film and music and improved exposure for artists and small studios. The high street needs to find its own revolution in the wake of Amazon and ecommerce and in the future the car industry will look totally different to the norm of today. We need to similarly disrupt our NHS, to involve patients in their care more transparently and we need to improve outcomes and access.

Health and care has embraced technology over the years but hasn’t kept pace with the rate of change in the rest of the world – it’s time for that to change. Hancock’s vision for NHS was clear in his policy paper The future of healthcare and the NHS Longterm Plan released in January 2019 also places digital transformation at its heart. The MSc will give me the opportunity to take on a significant project to help bring about digital change in my part of the NHS and it will support me in analysis and research and I hope findings which influence systemwide change and transformation.

Right course– The Digital Academy is a fantastic organisation which has been setup incredibly quickly in response to the Wachter report and it places the UK front and centre on an international stage regarding health and care learning and development. The Digital Academy is run by people who understand the transformation agenda in the NHS, who listen and react to changing needs and who can relate course material to the reality of my NHS world. I don’t think there are many MSc courses available which are so closely tied to the NHS technology agenda and this makes the DA MSc a unique learning opportunity which is relevant and engaging for my industry. It’s also the best value for money MSc that exists and I’ve asked around so I know this to be true.

Follows on from the diploma– I’m in a learning phase of life and really enjoying it. I hope I can continue to be a lifelong learner but whilst in this intense phase of development I want to complete my study and achieve the MSc qualification. I could come back to this in a year or two but there is a high likelihood life will fill the space I found for the Digital Academy and I won’t come back to complete the course. So, I want to finish what I’ve started now.

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I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to participate in the first cohort of the Digital Academy and want to continue this journey with my new-found peers and I want to help shape the future of NHS digital transformation. I want to use my MSc project to create new best practice, to share it widely and practically demonstrate the purpose of the NHS technical vision is to deliver improved care for our citizens – and that includes me.


Rob Blagden works for 2gether NHS Foundation Trust in Gloucestershire as Deputy Director of IT, he is also the Trust’s Lead Governor. Rob was recently elected to sit on the first Alumni Committee for the Digital Academy.

Imperial War evening