NHS Hack Day

It’s about 5 1/2 hours with an undermotorised miniature four wheel drive from Mid Essex to Newcastle. That’s about 330 minutes or 9 Matt Bianco albums. So no problems with the entertainment. One starts in Maldon after the afternoon surgery with ‘Whose side are you on’ and arrives in the North around 22:00, slightly hoarse with ‘Echoes’. I had never been before to Newcastle and had always been keen to attend a NHS Hack Day, so the rationale was obvious. Up North it was!

After a Matt Bianco and Radio 4 filled drive up North and navigating a surprisingly busy Newcastle city centre (London’s slow decline of night clubs has obviously not reached The North yet) full of, er, happy twentysomethings and a fortunately quiet night I enjoyed a lovely brisk forty minute morning walk through a now empty Newcastle to the venue that was chosen to be NHS Hack Day central for one day: a handsome, modern space in the middle of the city and the core of a new science park. Very impressive. Inside was a pretty impressive crowd of chapettes and chaps of all ages happily chatting away. So far so good.

NHS Hack Days have an easy organisational structure: you show up with a problem that you want to have solved or a feature that doesn’t exist yet and pitch to the assembled crowd of developers, project managers, clinicians and patients. After the pitching sessions you set up a mini stall and discuss issues and further ideas with interested attendants. The projects that gathered a following then spend the next day discussing audience, features and technical details before building it. The finished prototype will then be presented to the audience – and whap bang – a new helpful IT tool for the NHS has been created.

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Pitching Session at 09:30 on a Saturday. Impressive.

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Developers, developers, developers, developers, developers

The talent at the table I found myself at was impressive: a UI expert, trainers, clinicians, an entrepreneur, patients and patient advocates. There was a definite urgency to come up with a tool that would make it easier to monitor chronic conditions and find a technology enhanced solution to it. To keep us from drifting into navel gazing or feature overload, we were periodically yelled at by a friendly enforcer, helping us to keep the project on track. Project management enhanced by decibel. Very effective.  Unfortunately the flu that had been niggling at my brain for the previous 48 hours finally broke through the paracetamol barriers and I had to concede defeat and retreat to my hotel for a prolonged recuperation period, but the teams continued to work on their projects for the next 24 hours.

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I’ll be back. This is too much fun not to attend again. Hopefully next time without flu.

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